Multi-talented is an appropriate term for Dr. Scott Anderson, a Meridian oncologist who paints, writes, composes music and produces independent films in his spare time. He also had a career in the Navy and is dad to seven children. That’s not a bad list of accomplishments for someone who had dyslexia and was challenged to learn to read.
“My philosophy is that you get one ride on this merry-go-round — one chance and I want to do as much as I can,” he said. “I’m in an intense specialty. Sometimes I’m the grim reaper and must give bad news. My interests are a release. Without them, I would go home and sit on the closet floor.”
With a father who was in academic medicine, Anderson moved a lot and was always exposed to medicine. “I never saw any other options,” he said. “I started working as an orderly at age 14. Hospitals were a very supportive environment, and I continued to work in them.”
The oldest of four children, Anderson was dyslexic as a child and couldn’t read. His mother taught him to paint and see the world in three dimensions, an ability that’s served him well in radiation. Determined to be right handed even though it didn’t come naturally, he pretended his left hand was a light source as letters look toward the dark and numbers look to the light.
“In the third grade, I could not read, but school got easier and easier as I learned to read,” he recalls. “By the time I got to college, I could read something one time and I had it.”
Anderson earned his medical degree at the University of Alabama’s Birmingham School of Medicine and served residencies in Virginia as a Navy officer.
“I was in the Navy for the scholarship because I got married at 19, against my parents’ wishes,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the best, so I joined the divers.”
He intended to specialize in head, neck and trauma with a rotating internship, but says he got snatched out of that when the Navy situation changed after the crisis in Lebanon. He served as director of radiation oncology at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, Calif.
“I had to learn nuclear power and radiation. I had a strong basis in physics, so I thought radiation oncology would be a good fit, and I love it,” he said. “It is one of the most challenging and rapidly growing fields of medicine. It’s estimated we have only one-third of the oncologists we’ll need in 15 years.”
The 52-year-old oncologist was considering moving back to Tuscaloosa where his parents live when a fellow reveler at a New Year’s party asked him to give Meridian a try.
“It seemed close to my parents, and I thought I’d give it five to six years,” he says. “That was 16 years ago.”
Anderson is medical director at the Anderson Cancer Center in Meridian and at the South Central Mississippi Cancer Center in Laurel. He oversaw the design and construction of these multi-modality cancer centers. He and his staff are trying to find new ways to do things. They have advanced equipment and have pioneered several break through procedures. They have developed a way to treat prostrate cancer that doesn’t have the limitations of intensity modulation radiation therapy (IMRT) and instituted IMRT and 4-D programs.
He and his wife, Charlene, have found Meridian a wonderful place to raise children. These children came to them in various ways. The couple adopted a little girl, and then Anderson’s two sons from his first marriage came to live with them. Soon after that, Charlene’s sister died and her three children came to live with the Andersons. The birth of their own little girl brought the total to seven.
“We got five children in 11 months. There were four boys with ages within five years,” he said. “For a while, we went to every kind of ballgame there is. Someone was playing all the time.”
Now the children’s ages range from nine to 28 years. Anderson says he doesn’t have a lot of hair left and credits his wife with being very patient. “Plus, she’s tolerant with all my interests,” he added.
He continues to paint but has cut down to doing only six to eight paintings a year. A murder mystery he wrote is being considered for publication by four major publishers. For the past year, he has written a light-hearted monthly column for the journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association.
The recently completed movie, “Teary Sockets,” was produced with his oldest son, Jackson, and Kevin Ivey, chief engineer for Peavey Electronics. Anderson was responsible for the movie’s original musical score. The movie, which premiered at the Crossroads Film Festival, has gone straight to DVD release and is available at tearysockets.com and on Amazon. It is about a rock band that migrates from Los Angeles to Mississippi where, as animal rights activists, they get involved with the release of cows.
“The three of us are writing partners,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of talented people in Meridian.”
Anderson has also published scientific articles in professional publications and holds numerous professional memberships.
He has learned the secret of time management. “I don’t watch TV,” he said, “and I just do these things — do what I want to do.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.