Foster is a master of the 'monstrous' tasks

jeff fosterIf you need someone to coordinate extremely large and complicated projects across multiple time zones and holidays who also can strike the right balance of pushing and cajoling to get it done on time, Jeff Foster is that guy.

Foster, a program manager in Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, has an exceptional work ethic, demonstrates great initiative and problem-solving skills and is a genuinely likable colleague. For this and other reasons he was nominated by his co-workers and selected UAB’s Employee of the Month.

“Jeff is exceptionally committed to producing a top-tier product on every assignment, and he takes considerable pride in our research products,” said Professor Kenneth Saag, M.D., for whom Foster recently coordinated the proposal for a large, multinational trial. “His ability to be creative and to find clever solutions to problems is very impressive.”

Foster, who has been at UAB 10 years, said his work is centered on managing research portfolios for several researchers and delivering findings in ways that are understandable both to researchers and patients. His experience here has spanned fields of injury research, transportation, biomechanics, gout and medical rehabilitation and more.

“It keeps you on your toes,” Foster said of the challenges and rewards of the interdisciplinary and multi-site projects he supports.

Inspiring confidence

The proposed EDGE trial, for example, would be one of the largest osteoporosis studies ever undertaken, enrolling 9,500 women across 600 sites during a five-year period.

But no one doubted he was up to the task.

“Since day one, Jeff has been tasked with coordinating extremely large and complicated projects. He manages them expertly and keeps them on target,” said Program Director Ryan Outman, who points to Saag’s EDGE study as a perfect example.

“This study involved more than a dozen investigators, several staff and many consultants and advisors at UAB and numerous other institutions. Jeff was required to track and communicate with major health systems and hundreds of physician practices both nationally and international. This required a delicate balance of pushing and cajoling that Jeff handled with aplomb.”

It’s a sentiment shared by co-workers.

Program Director Carol Ballinger,Ph.D., credited Foster with coordinating multiple work groups to gather grant materials and ensure accuracy, compliance and completeness through multiple time zones and during holidays for the proposal she described as “a monstrous submission.”

“He has an exceptional work ethic, is conscientious in every regard, pays attention to details, organizes well and carries out his duties efficiently,” Ballinger said. “And he brings the same level of competence to running a monthly teleconference as he does to preparing a $35 million proposal or recruiting investigators into a study at a national meeting.”

Foster said the biggest daily challenge is fueling the quick pace needed to keep large projects moving. “Making sure we maintain pace and focus takes a great deal of mental energy, and focus is very important,” he said.

Motivating people

And this is where colleagues say Foster manages to showcase another important trait: people skills.

Biostatistics Professor Gary Cutter, Ph.D., sums up Foster as “one of the best professional attitudes coupled with the competence to put things together” and the “ability to get a herd of faculty to focus sufficiently to achieve the goals of the process.”

Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at uab.edu/humanresources.

“Jeff exemplifies the mission — preventing problems from occurring, treating them when they arise and ensuring through his efforts that everyone understands what may have happened — to educate and instruct others in the situations at hand,” Cutter said.

Respect for his work seems to emanate from the sense the feeling is mutual.

“He demonstrates excellent concern for the use of resources, whether fiscal resources or the valuable time of our faculty and the staff members he works with,” said Meredith Kilgore, Ph.D., chair of Health Organization and Policy in the School of Public Health. “He has demonstrated a commitment to improving his own skills and assisting us in understanding the technology we work with. He adapts to the needs at hand and is always a pleasure to work with.”

A high opinion of Foster is shared by those outside UAB. Douglas Roblin, Ph.D., professor of health management and policy at Georgia State University, who worked with Foster to secure participation from other sites for EDGE, came away from the experience impressed.

“When under pressure to meet competing demands or the inevitable pressures of deadlines, he managed to accomplish what was needed by his own initiative and the assistance of others. Much of that assistance appears to have been built upon collegiality that he has established with peers at UAB,” Roblin said.

Outman offers a simple explanation.

“Jeff’s approach is an inclusive one that seeks out the ideas of others and builds upon everyone’s input so everyone feels valued and heard,” he said.

Foster is humbled by the kind words of his colleagues.

“I know how busy everyone is, how hard they work, and appreciate their effort and dedication to what we do. “I am honored to receive this recognition.”