Wes Foster HeadshotIn the late 1980s, when Wes Foster was earning his Licensed Practical Nurse diploma, his class did an oncology rotation and afterwards, his instructor urged him to specialize as an oncology nurse. She saw in Wes the unique combination of skills and attitude necessary to help cancer patients.

Like many nursing students, however, Wes thought he was headed for critical care nursing, using his skills in an ICU or as a medical-surgical nurse. But when he applied for a position at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in his home state of New Jersey, the only LPN position available was on the oncology unit.

“My whole plan was, I’ll get my foot in the door and when another position opens up, I’ll transfer out of oncology,” he remembered. “And then I realized I loved oncology, I loved everything about it, and I stayed in it for 25 years.”

During that time, he traded the snow and slush of the East Coast for the warmth and sunshine of Arizona, working as a staff nurse, team leader or supervisor at several hospitals in the Phoenix area. During this time he was approached by a fellow nurse leader about joining the Professional Advisory Board (PAB) at CSCAZ in 2006.

Wes said that from the very beginning, he was impressed by the work of the panel, which has about a dozen members including doctors, nurses, psychologists, nutritionists, a social worker and a chaplain. The group helps determine what free psychosocial programming CSCAZ should offer to cancer patients, family members and friends.

“We’re the group that asks ‘Does this program really have evidence behind it, is it something we want our cancer patients to pursue?’ ” he explained. “We are the people looking at the research behind these programs to make sure they are valid and have a benefit.”

They review not only educational programs, but the adjunct or quality of life therapies like expressive arts, exercise programs, or hypnotherapy for pain relief. Members of the board also give presentations as part of CSCAZ programs or host events for CSCAZ.

Over the years, Wes has expanded his career into teaching the next generation of nurses. He started by teaching oncology education at Banner Health for nurses who were going into oncology, which sparked an interest in becoming an educator full-time. He joined the faculty of Mesa Community College in 2011 and then started teaching part-time with Northern Arizona University in 2013, and in 2016 joined the board of the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB), a nationwide professional organization whose mission is to validate excellence in medical-surgical nursing.

In January 2022, Wes will begin a two-year role as president of MSNCB and he will start orientation for a new post as a lead faculty member for first-semester nursing students at Mesa Community College. Unfortunately, these new responsibilities mean that Wes will be stepping down from the CSCAZ professional advisory board. 

“This decision was not taken lightly, but it’s what I must do for the work-life balance I need,” said Wes. “I have learned a lot through my 15 years of being with CSCAZ and will continue to support them financially and in any other way that I can. I am proud to be a part of the growth over the last decade and I know CSCAZ will continue to be a leader for the psychosocial programming and support for years to come throughout the state.”

We congratulate Wes on his new appointments and while we will miss him on the PAB, we are excited for this next chapter and thank him for all his work for the past 15 years as part of the CSCAZ family.