Make a Difference: The Founder of the "I Have a Future Program" Shares His Vision for Young America

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In 1995, Henry Foster, a professor at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, became President Clinton's ill-fated nominee for Surgeon General of the United States. In this autobiography, Foster traces his life from his childhood in rural Arkansas, where his father was a teacher and his mother a superintendent of colored schools. With his background--as a teenager he was a full partner in his father's chicken and egg business, making purchases and driving into town at just 13 to make deliveries--it's no surprise that he has led such a life of achievement. The only black student in his class at the University of Arkansas Medical School, Foster took to heart the advice of his parents and his elders, and decided to devote his life to working with those less fortunate than himself. What brought him to Clinton's attention was his I Have a Future program, which was designed to counter teenage pregnancy in two Nashville housing projects and encourage students to stay in school.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A reserved, rather sketchy autobiography by the man whose nomination to succeed Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general was defeated in 1995. Foster keeps his emotions well in check while describing his childhood as a middle-class, achievement-oriented black youth in the segregated South of the 1930s and '40s, and his experiences as a medical student at the virtually all-white University of Arkansas in the 1950s. After completing his residency, Foster moved rapidly up the career ladder, becoming chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Tuskegee Institute's hospital, the center of medical care for Alabama's poor black population. His innovative tiered system of health care services based on outreach clinics soon became the model for other states and led to Foster's election to the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, where he was asked to study the health effects of legalized abortion. He was later tapped by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to direct a project on how to consolidate health services for high-risk adolescents, which led eventually to his ``I Have a Future'' program, based in Nashville's public housing projects. Clearly a public-spirited citizen and compassionate physician, Foster recounts his professional accomplishments with quiet pride, but his personal life remains pretty much a closed book. In his later chapters, however, the man himself finally becomes visible. When his nomination as surgeon general ran into opposition from antiabortion forces, the inexplicably naive Foster received a bruising education in politics, and he's still stinging from it. He hasn't given up wanting to make a difference, however. As President Clinton's senior advisor for teen pregnancy and youth issues, he concludes here with a candid assessment of the country's public health needs and a ``domestic medical Marshall Plan'' to deal with them. A rich, full life that deserves a more complete telling. (Author tour; radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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