Q&A with Dr. Laahn Foster, Hematologist/Oncologist

Q: Why did you decide to become a hematologist/oncologist? 
 I took an indirect path to clinical medicine. I started my career as a management consultant in the healthcare industry. My business work helped policy makers, financial organizations, and life sciences  manufacturers develop business strategy. In that role, I often interacted with many physician-thought leaders across most therapy areas.  Through these relationships, I could see and was motivated to have a more direct impact on human healthcare. So, I changed career paths and decided to become a physician. 

I specialized in hematology/oncology for three important reasons. First, I was drawn to practice where there was significant unmet clinical need, and where I could hope to “move the needle” through my own research and clinical efforts. Second, hem/onc was poised to be recognized as a priority therapy area with the potential to make great advances for patients. Third, I am the type of person who “lives to work,” rather than “works to live.” I have a deep respect and love for individual patient care and pushing the research envelope. It inspires me every day. 

Q: What is the best part of your work at UVA? 
Foster: Each patient is our most important patient. It is the highest honor and pleasure to be a part of my patients’ lives. The singular objective that we all share at UVA is to provide healthcare at a world-class level, and thus provide every patient with the best possible clinical outcomes.   I am blessed to work with incredibly gifted and dedicated colleagues. Though we have more than our fair share of physician superstars in my division and across UVA, we have a very strong team ethos of seamless collaboration. Our patients and the critically needed research for future patients come first. We check our egos at the door and get on with business of making our patients’ lives better.   

Q: How has or does philanthropy impact your work?
Foster: We can only improve patient care with research.  Every day, we are engaged in basic science efforts, retrospective chart reviews, observational studies, industry-sponsored studies or unique trials we design and lead through UVA. Research, unfortunately, is expensive. But if we are dedicated to the future of human healthcare, we must be dedicated to addressing the financial realities of paying for this research.  

We receive some grant funding from the NIH, independent research foundations, and the biopharmaceutical industry. But it is not enough to do the work we need to do for tomorrow’s medical successes. Only through the generous donations of philanthropic individuals and organizations can we do the work that has to be done.  

Q: One thing most people don’t know about you? 
Foster: I am a simple person. I love my family. I especially love watching my son play tournament golf. But if the truth be told, I adore a well-poured Vesper Martini.