We sat down with Cherie Foster, M.D., neonatologist and Practice Medical Director at Pediatrix Medical Group of Florida and St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Foster has been in practice for 18 years. Following fellowship, she spent a decade in academic medicine. She then joined Pediatrix in 2009 and has been with the group ever since.
Dr. Foster is passionate about superb clinical outcomes, continuous quality improvement and mentorship. She’s also passionate about working for MEDNAX—she says the company’s employment structures, educational opportunities and generous employee benefits make it the ideal employment environment for neonatologists.
Watch the video for the full interview or check out the highlights below!
How did you get into the field of medicine?
I wanted to be a doctor since I was very small. I don’t have any memories of saying this when I was little, but I guess I always wanted to be a physician. I had several nurses in my family, and my grandfather’s brother was a doctor. On one side of my family, there are 9 of the 12 of us that are physicians, and I’m the oldest, so we have a big physician family. My father was a research scientist, a plant geneticist, and he was always a big mentor to me.
What do you think it means to be a woman in healthcare today?
I’ve always thought of myself as a physician and a neonatologist first. Being a woman in healthcare, roles have changed. When I went to medical school in 1989, in my medical school class, there were 20 women out of 110 people, which now seems silly and ridiculous, but it was a very different time. My male classmates would turn around and say, ‘are you girls taking a lighter version of this exam?’ It was a very different place. I think there is a lot more opportunity now, and it’s a good time to be a woman in medicine. There’s a lot of leadership potential and lots of different paths that your career can take.
What are some of the positives you experience being a woman in medicine?
I think that the positives are the same as they are for men—I view myself as a physician. I get to wake up every day and help people. I go to work and do things to help people, and I can come home at the end of the day and say, hopefully I made a difference—if not for today, then for someone for the long term. And in the troubling times our world is facing right now in a lot of different arenas, I think that’s a very good feeling.
What advice do you have for women applying to medical school or entering the medical field for the first time?
I would be prepared for change. I come from the era of paper charting and not using computers to few women in medicine, a very patriarchal kind of setup and government not being that involved in healthcare. So, I think on every front, it’s no longer a matter of just taking good care of the patients and then going home; you have to be prepared for changes in every area—not just keeping up with medical science and clinical changes but changes in documentation and how medicine is structured. You have to be open to change and not think you have to know exactly what your career is going to be like right at the beginning. At the end of my pediatric residency, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I felt like every single other person had a clear path. I took three years off and was a hospitalist, and that kind of gave me some time to find my own way. I would encourage young women to say, ‘you can find your own way’—you don’t have to know everything about everything you want to do and have it all planned right out at the beginning. So, go easy on yourself.