Since 2014, we at the St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund, have recognized and celebrated exceptional mental health professionals in the St. Louis region through the John M. Anderson Excellence in Mental Health Award. Presented in partnership with The St. Louis American, the award honors mental health professionals who exhibit excellence in their field and are actively working to reduce the stigma of mental health in the Black/African American community. But who is Dr. Anderson?
Dr. Anderson’s Education and Training
Dr. Anderson was a microbiologist turned psychiatrist who found his home in St. Louis – twice. He was born in Colorado in 1914. For college, he stayed in his home state, attending Colorado State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry. He then made his way to St. Louis, accepting a job in microbiology at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, the only public hospital for African Americans in the city at the time. In his time at Phillips Hospital, Dr. Anderson witnessed the power of psychiatry as patients who endured suffering showed improvements after working with a psychiatrist. Inspired to be able to help others in that way, Dr. Anderson left St. Louis in 1954 at the age of 38 to attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Returning to St. Louis
Four years later, in 1958, Dr. Anderson graduated from Meharry with honors. He brought his new knowledge back to St. Louis and Phillips Hospital as an intern. He then completed his residency at Washington University in St. Louis in 1963. Throughout his medical training in St. Louis, Dr. Anderson gave back to the community by working at the following institutions:
- Murphy Blair Clinic (now the John C. Murphy Health Center)
- Elisabeth Courtney Clinic
- Yeatman Clinic
- Malcolm Bliss Hospital
Following his time at WashU, Dr. Anderson opened a private psychiatric practice in the Central West End, where he worked for 28 years until his death in 1986. While in practice, he was a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a member of the Mound City Medical Forum, St. Louis Medical Society, Eastern Missouri Psychiatric Association and Missouri State Medical Society. In 1963 he was awarded the Meharry Medical College’s President’s Award for 25 years of service to mankind.
Dr. Anderson’s Personal Life
Dr. Anderson married Mary Ellen Johnson in 1944 and had three children, John J. (Karen), retired and currently residing in Elkhorn, Wisconsin and Dr. Dale Anderson (Susie), a psychiatrist in private practice in St. Louis. A third son, Bruce, a music professor at New York University passed away in 1991.
A Lasting Legacy and Example of Service
Dr. Anderson left St. Louis a better place, and left behind a legacy that recognizes the importance of mental health care. He actively worked to reduce to the stigma of mental health among the Black community, and he used his gifts and talents for the betterment of others and his community. Each year, as we prepare to celebrate two local mental health professionals in his honor, we reflect on his life and leadership to guide us.
Learn more about the John M. Anderson Excellence in Mental Health Award and see past recipients.