Audrey Foster-Barber, MD, PhD is the 2018 Gold Humanism Award in Medicine recipient. Audrey is an Associate Professor of Child Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital. She is a Florida native and graduated from Harvard College with a BA in biology (summa cum laude) in 1989. With the mentorship of Dr. J. Michael Bishop, she completed her MD and PhD (biochemistry) at UCSF in 1999. Prior to her residency, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Donna Ferriero’s laboratory studying cytokine changes after birth asphyxia. Dr. Ferriero introduced Audrey to child neurology and became an important personal and professional mentor. After the completion of her child neurology residency at the UCSF in 2005, she joined the faculty there. In her early attending years, she was supported and mentored by Dr. T. Harrol Hutchison. Audrey recalls the compassionate relationships that Dr. Hutchison made with patients and families as well as his wonderful balance of academic medicine and humanism.
Early in her career, Audrey came to the realization that she was most fulfilled by caring for and educating others. With the support of Dr. Ferriero, Audrey made a career pivot away from basic science toward her passion – patient care and mentoring learners. This passion ultimately led her to become the child neurology residency program director at UCSF in 2009. Audrey has developed a curriculum that maximizes learning and enhanced learning opportunities using multidisciplinary education such as in collaborations with neurosurgery and radiology; she has received the UCSF Exceptional Physician Award for excellence in interdisciplinary communication and support. She also serves as the Outpatient Medical Director of the Pediatric Brain Center, a true multidisciplinary practice designed and supported by leaders in pediatric neurology and pediatric neurosurgery – in particular Child Neurology Division Chief, Heather Fullerton and Pediatric Neurosurgery Chief, Nalin Gupta. Her position as clinical director allows her to incorporate the interest of her learners into the design and practice of a busy clinical service. Her experience in both basic science and clinical research makes her an ideal mentor for students and residents exploring career options. She has formally mentored 17 predoctoral students as well as 19 postdoctoral residents and fellows. She has received multiple teaching awards including the Department of Neurology Resident Education Award. In 2017, Audrey was named the Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Neurology.
While developing experience in the care of children with chronic, complex or life-limiting neurologic illnesses, Audrey developed expertise in neurologic symptom management at the end of life. She joined the Pain and Palliative Care Service and developed an outpatient neurology and genetic focused palliative care clinic. She subsequently became board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She was the medical director of the Pediatric Palliative Care Service at UCSF from 2009 to 2013 and a palliative care consultant at UCSF from 2013 to 2017. Since 2016, she has worked as an attending physician for the pediatric hospice team at Hospice by
the Bay, providing home visits and team-based care for children with various neurologic and non-neurological diagnoses. Audrey provides compassionate care to patients facing end of life choices, helping families to balance the benefit and burden of care and to enhance quality of life. Some of her best moments come during palliative care home visits where she connects with families on a level that few physicians experience.
For all her accomplishments and contributions to the spirituality of humanity, Audrey’s greatest success is her role as a mother, spouse, daughter and granddaughter. She draws strength and joy from the memory of her grandmother, Caroline O’Mohundro Foster, who was touched by neurological disease – first with the death of her first child due to myelomeningocele, and then in the loss of her husband to Alzheimer’s disease. Audrey fondly recalls the calm and compassionate way her grandmother cared for others, including her husband. Like her grandmother, Audrey’s passion for humanism has carried into her personal and professional life. She has been happily married to her true partner, Greg, for 26 years. Audrey and Greg are the proud parents of Brendan (22) and Lily (19).
While developing experience in the care of children with chronic, complex or life-limiting neurologic illnesses, Audrey developed expertise in neurologic symptom management at the end of life. She joined the Pain and Palliative Care Service and developed an outpatient neurology and genetic focused palliative care clinic (and) subsequently became board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.