Buckets of barbecue equals medical degree for Selma native

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 22, 2003

Monique Anderson doesn’t remember a time &uot;when (she) didn’t want to be a doctor.&uot; Now well on her way to making her dream a reality, she is a student at Harvard Medical School, where she has completed Step One of the three necessary to obtain her medical license.

Anderson, 24, grew up in rural Dallas County and attended Southside School through the 10th grade, when she entered the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile. Oglethorpe University in Georgia and a major in biology was her next stop on the road to entering the medical profession. She was the first black student to receive the prestigious James Edward Oglethorpe Award, which is given to the male or female student who best represents Oglethorpe’s ideals.

Academically, Anderson’s record was also outstanding. &uot;Right away I told my organic chemistry professor that I would make an A in his class. He laughed but I proved it. Preparing for one of his tests I slept only 12 hours that week, but I made 100 on it. He admitted I was the first student in five years to make a 100. And my course completion grade was 98.&uot; Anderson’s proudest moment came at graduation from Oglethorpe, she says, &uot;when college President Larry Large focused on my life in his graduation address.&uot;

She attributes much of her educational success to her parents, &uot;who always told me to be a leader not a follower&uot; as well as to &uot;the thousands of pounds of barbecue my father has cooked and sold over the years.&uot;

Her father is Jesse Anderson, owner and operator of popular Old South Barbecue on Highway 80 East. One of the 38 family members present for his daughter’s graduation from Oglethorpe, he beams proudly when he speaks of that occasion &045; and whenever he looks at his &uot;little girl&uot; and admits he is cooking everything she likes to eat during her three weeks at home.

Monique Anderson says she follows a strict health regime at Harvard: fruit, vegetables, lean meat and skim milk, and a six-mile run five or six days a week. &uot;But here at home I intend to pig out for Christmas. We are going to have smoked turkey, ham, sweet potato pie and red velvet cake, collards, potato salad, candied yams and cornbread dressing.&uot;

The petite medical student isn’t worried about gaining weight. &uot;I’ll keep up my running while I’m home for the holidays and when I get back to Harvard, I’ll return to my other hobby, boxing.&uot;

She has not yet made a firm decision on her medical career future. Now part of the Jackson Heart Study, a research study in Mississippi that is the largest to address heart disease in African-Americans, Anderson feels &uot;that’s where my calling is because I am black. However, I am exposed to so much at Harvard that I am also interested in Public Health, in heart and epidemiological studies and in law.

Flashing a vivid smile at her father, Anderson said, &uot;God has directed my footsteps so far and wherever he says, I will go.&uot;