Clemson alumnus Rick Foster strives to help others pursue health care careers
Distance doesn’t separate alumnus Dr. Rick Foster from his Clemson University family. Though he lives on Wadmalaw Island, Foster has remained connected to the university and has been active within the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and the Department of Public Health Sciences for years.
From Tiger Band, where he played trombone and served as band commander, to his passion for health- care, his collegiate experience inspired him to support students who are interested in the health care profession through scholarships and mentoring.
“It’s one of the best ways I can give back, and see the university become stronger and be an anchor in training students from all backgrounds in the health care professions,” Foster said. “Our university can be a shining example of equity, diversity and inclusion built on Clemson’s family approach to learning, training and professional growth.”
Foster, a 1976 graduate, holds a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine from Clemson and a medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina.
Throughout his career, he’s worked in health care across the state as a family physician, chief executive of officer of a physician practice network, as well as Chief Medical Officer for a hospital system in Charleston.
Now he is the senior advisor for population health improvement for the South Carolina Hospital Association, where he’s worked for 11 years with all of the hospitals in South Carolina. He also serves as executive director of the Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina, a coalition of almost 60 organizations committed to improving the health of everyone who lives in the Palmetto state.
This passion for improving health and health care and the need for more diversity in the health care workforce fuels his drive to help minority students who have a desire to pursue a career in health care.
Just last year, he created a diversity in health care scholarship program and already seven students have been awarded funds. His goal is to help minority students attend and succeed at Clemson through financial assistance, as well as mentoring experiences with professionals in the field that each student chooses to enter.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to support and mentor health profession students at Clemson and in particular to ensure more diversity and inclusion from different cultures,” Foster said. “The next generation of health professionals need to reflect and fully represent the people they will be serving.”
He said he wants to help more students succeed in their chosen health care fields and help advance Clemson in training a diverse group of medical professionals to serve the health needs of people in all areas of South Carolina.
Prior to creating this scholarship program, Foster helped start an Open School chapter at Clemson which allows students and faculty in any health related major to interact and learn from each other and have the opportunity to listen to experts in various health care fields through lectures and participate in community-based health events. Open School, hosted through the Institute for Health care Improvement, is a national program that connects students and professionals in the health care field.
He also has spoken to various health classes at Clemson and provided mentoring to individual students.
While his scholarship grows, he plans to continue mentoring and speaking to students and remain involved with his University family and hopes others will join him.
“I cannot think of any better way to give back to our beloved school while helping dedicated students that want to pursue a career in health care,” Foster said. “It is my sincere hope that other health profession graduates of Clemson University will join me in actively supporting this diversity in health care scholarship and mentoring program.”