Opioids Latest Focus for this Multi-faceted Grad

Monica Frazier Anderson, DDS

This story appears in the Spring/Summer 2019 edition of Dentistry Magazine

For Monica Frazier Anderson, DDS ’88, there is a always a new endeavor around every corner.

“I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset, which was instilled in me by my family,” says Anderson, who has authored six books in three genres, hosted a cable TV show, delivered motivational speeches nationwide and worked in private practice for more than 20 years. Today Anderson works as a dental benefits administrator while also launching a non-profit organization to address opioid addiction in her community.

Anderson designed a campaign to educate the public on how to safeguard pills at home and dispose of unused prescription drugs at local clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and police departments. While the infrastructure has long existed to take back drugs in most communities, Anderson recognized that providers (including dentists) were rarely conveying the importance of quickly disposing of unused drugs to their patients. “Addiction often starts with someone having access to pills that were legally prescribed,” she said. “Providers and their patients need to understand the risks, and the ease of dropping off drugs for free, anonymously, year-round at convenient spots throughout their community.”*

Anderson conceived of the Drop the Drugs initiative last year as a required project for her participation in the American Dental Association’s Institute for Diversity and Leadership. Today she hopes to make it a sustainable model that can be replicated. The increased public messaging and collaboration with local government, law enforcement, health care systems, providers and the media have resulted in a nearly three-fold increase in the amount of pills taken back in her home community of Grand Prairie, Texas, in 2019 thus far.

As a young dentistry student, Anderson transferred to the U of M School of Dentistry in her second year from the University of Texas at Houston in 1985. Her worries about being the only new student and the only African American student in her class faded quickly as she and her fellow students pushed through the rigorous program together. “Coming from Texas, I had experienced a lot of racism and sexism; but not at the U of M,” said Anderson, who was elected president of her class. “My classmates initially referred to me as ‘the Baptist girl’ as opposed to ‘the Black girl’, which I found hilarious, and also delightful. We were a team.”

While Anderson has delivered speeches and published articles on a wide range of topics, today she finds herself delivering speeches on rebounding from setbacks more than anything else. Diagnosed with a malignant gastrointestinal stromal tumor in 2012, Anderson has undergone two surgeries and now takes a daily chemotherapy pill to treat her cancer.

“I’m just grateful to be here,” says the dynamic 57-year old mother of two and grandmother. “I’m running at about 70 percent of what I could do at full throttle in the past. But my 70 percent is pretty damn good. No matter what we are going through, we can still make the best of each day.”

*Learn more at www.dropthedrugs.org.