By John Wallace
Texas Children’s Hospital Radiology Assistant Director Traci Foster, CRA, MSRA, RT(R), did not start out looking to work in radiology.
This was sort of by chance,” she explains. “My undergraduate degree is in elementary education and when I graduated with my Bachelor of Science, the teaching field was saturated. Since I was always interested in health care I decided to go back to school and thought radiography would be a good way to get my foot in the door and experience the medical field,” Foster explains. “I fully intended on continuing to pursue a career as a physician, but I enjoyed radiology so much I stuck with it. Now I have the perfect combination – working with children and in radiology!”
It turned out to be a great career choice.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Administrative Director of Imaging Services Mario Pistilli recently nominated Traci Foster as an “amazing colleague” to be featured in ICE magazine.
“Traci is a respected voice in radiology leadership at the national level. She is a key contributor to AHRA and to the Pediatric Radiology Forum of the Children’s Hospital Association,” Pistilli wrote in an email. “I have had the privilege to serve on multiple committees and workgroups with Traci, and she always brings a great perspective and thoughtful ideas to any discussion.”
Foster still enjoys working in radiology.
“I love making a difference in the lives of others. Whether this is with our patients (helping get the best image for a timely and correct diagnosis) or with my team (helping to remove barriers so they can perform at their best),” she says. “If I can help just one person a day and make the day a little better for that person, then it’s all worth it!”
Mentors have played a key role in her career success.
“I have been blessed with several informal mentors and champions throughout my life and career who were passionate about sharing their experiences and knowledge to help others learn and grow,” Foster says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. One lesson I learned many years ago is, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ Everyone goes through tough periods and times where the struggles seem insurmountable, but you must keep moving forward.”
The AHRA also serves as a support group for Foster.
“It definitely takes a village! I have been a CRA since 2013 and an AHRA member since 2006. AHRA has been such a phenomenal resource for information, networking, support and growth,” she says. “I have had the pleasure of serving on AHRA’s Editorial Review Board, speaking at conferences, publishing articles for the peer-reviewed journal, Radiology Management, and being an AHRA representative on the American Association of Physicist in Medicine (AAPM) CARES Committee.”
Her greatest accomplishment includes building something from the dirt up.
“My greatest accomplishment in my 22 years of working in imaging was when I was hired to open a brand-new facility, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. I had the amazing opportunity to build and grow the radiology team from scratch,” she explains. “Taking a group of complete strangers and helping them grow and develop into a solid, unified team has been an amazing experience and journey that I will never forget! I am also incredibly proud to be a CRA and be part of an amazing group of leaders in both AHRA and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).”
Her leadership style contributes to her success and that of others.
“My personal definition of leadership is to engage, empower and encourage others through a shared vision. A leader must engage with their team get to know the team – not as MRI or X-ray technologists, but as individuals,” Foster explains. “Then, a leader must empower the team by providing resources, tools and inspiration to allow others to stretch and step outside of their comfort zone so they can grow. As we know, stretching and growing does not guarantee success but it does guarantee learning. I love the saying, ‘Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.’ Being a leader, encouraging your team is crucial. It’s OK if something doesn’t go as planned or if there are disappointments or set-backs, as long as you learn and continue moving forward.”
Foster’s path from potential elementary school teacher to radiology leader has not been without challenges. She said one challenge radiology, like lots of health care professions, will face is continuing to find new radiologists to fill spots being vacated by baby boomers.
“Staffing is a huge concern for many imaging departments right now, especially in the rural areas. This is a major challenge that will take a lot of creativity and flexibility to help solve,” Foster said. “As far as advancements, radiology is technology-based, and we all know how technology changes and advances on what seems like a daily basis! Here at Texas Children’s, we are getting ready to launch Siemens Virtual Cockpit with our MRI scanners which I think can be a game changer for both staff and patients in the MRI world.”
Away from work, Foster enjoys spending time with her husband, catching up with her adult children and spoiling her pets.
“I am married and all four children are now out of the house, so one could argue the only kids left at home (besides my husband) are my chocolate lab and rescued kitty! My children are spread out across the country from New York, Texas, California and Hawaii,” she says.