Mark Foster didn't realize how good he had it.
"Growing up here, maybe I didn't appreciate how great a place this is," Foster said, sitting in the living room of his Ken-Caryl Ranch home.
Foster has lived all over the world since graduating from Chatfield High School in 1992, but he returned home two months ago to start a family medical practice in South Jeffco. Foster and Dr. Lisa Walker, who had been practicing in Aurora, will open the practice Jan. 7. It is affiliated with Littleton Adventist Hospital.
Foster, 34, grew up in the Ken-Caryl area. After graduating from Chatfield High, he headed off to college at Brigham Young University. During college, he did a two-year Mormon mission to Brazil, where he learned to speak Spanish and Portuguese.
As a child, Foster wanted to be a doctor, but during high school he "wanted to be anything but." He considered being a writer or a teacher, and he left his options open as he headed to college. But his mission to Brazil changed things.
"That's when I really felt the desire to be a physician," Foster said. He graduated from BYU in 1999 and went to medical school at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. He did his residency in Greeley from 2003 to 2006, and then went to Worland, Wyo., to start his career.
Foster and his wife, Elizabeth, planned on staying in Worland and raising their family. In Worland, Foster was the typical small-town doctor, doing everything from delivering babies to providing emergency care.
"That's the reality of a small town," Foster said. "It was great, but it was also very demanding. I wanted a job where I could spend more time with my family."
So in late 2007, Foster started to look for other opportunities, and, through a physician recruiter, found out about the opportunity in South Jeffco.
"When the opportunity came, we jumped at it," he said.
Most of his patients in Wyoming were supportive of the decision to leave, but some were upset, he said. The move wasn't easy, because he "felt a huge loyalty to the patients."
"But most understood it was best for my family," Foster said.
Almost exactly a year later, after recruiting a new doctor to serve the Worland community, Foster is home.
"I'm very excited to come back home and practice medicine in my hometown," Foster said.
Foster has five brothers and a younger sister. Three of his brothers are in health care, one is an engineer and one is earning an accounting degree. All the Foster boys played basketball for Chatfield High, all were on the cross-country team, and all of them attended BYU.
"When we were growing up, we went through like 16 gallons of milk per week," Foster said.
He added that being close to his parents, Margaret and Mickey, and his younger sister Megan, a junior at Chatfield High, was a major factor in choosing to return to South Jeffco.
"I'm most excited that Mark and his family are close by," Margaret Foster said in the living room of her home, just a three-minute drive from her son's. "We love this area very much, and with Mark being back, it's just a really good mixture."
Megan Foster is happy to have her older brother back but knows it will mean added responsibilities.
"I'm really excited to baby-sit his kids," she said half-jokingly.
"Yeah, we won't have to look for a baby-sitter anymore," Mark Foster said.
"I think it's wonderful to have him come back to where he grew up," Mickey Foster said. "Our selfish reason is that our grandkids are close to us."
Elizabeth Foster, Mark's wife, is happy to be back in an area with a lot to do.
"I love it," she said. "Being close to Mark's family, all the trees around here, and there's something about being in Colorado in the fall.
"We're close to family events, and in Denver, at least there's things to do."
Elizabeth said she didn't think she'd miss city life when the family moved to Wyoming, but she did.
"I'm just excited having my kids here."
"It's good," said Joy, Mark and Elizabeth's 7-year-old daughter. "I think it's way more exciting than Wyoming. There's actually a zoo. And skiing is really fun. There's more ski resorts in Colorado."
Perhaps most excited is Mark Foster.
"I feel really blessed to be in this area," Foster said. "I think this is the best place in the world. There are so many wonderful things about this area."
Dr. Mark Foster's practice opens Jan. 7, but he's already taking appointments. Call him at 303-738-2714, or visit www.chatfieldfamilymedicine.org. The office is at 10789 Bradford Road, Suite 150.