Alumni Profiles

Monica Anselmetti ’82: Creating Connections, Inspiring Dreams

Jonathan Shipley, Bush Class of 2021 Parent
She was the only African American student in her senior class at Bush. Today, a well-respected OB-GYN doctor, she is often the only Black doctor on the Labor and Delivery Unit. Proud of being a physician of color, Dr. Monica (Garbutt) Anselmetti ’82 wants to pay it forward, offering mentorship to other students who are underrepresented in the medical field.
She is excited about having colleagues of color, excited about showing others that they, too, have a place in a hospital, or any other setting. They, too, can achieve their dreams. A spark can become a flame. That spark happened for Monica during her time at The Bush School. “Tom Highsmith,” she says. “He sparked my interest. He taught us about structure and function.” During his science classes in Upper School, she began formulating what her function might be in the future, what impact she might make on her community. “That was my first intention to be a doctor.” Being unafraid to be first was a concept instilled by Monica’s family. Her mother, Carolyn Purnell, was the first African American woman to pass the Bar in the State of Washington, and her grandparents, James and Mardine Purnell, founded Sentinel Credit Union and Liberty Bank, both the first financial institutions for people of color West of the Mississippi River. During Monica’s childhood, her mother was worried about schools bussing students to North Seattle. Monica could get harassed or physically harmed. The Bush School quelled the family’s fears. “I appreciate how protected I was,” Monica says. “I’m grateful that Bush was small.” Within that small community, Monica dreamed of her future as she thrived in her science classes. Mary ‘Sis’ Pease ’41 inspired her. Even though Sis did not teach Monica directly, she was life-changing. “She told me, ‘Well, at least apply to Stanford.’” Monica figured she would attend the University of Washington to pursue her education, but she followed her mentor’s advice. She applied. She got in. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor. Thank God for Bush’s science classes. The spark was always there.” That spark burned through Monica’s time at Stanford and on through medical school. She attended Meharry Medical College (MMC) in Nashville, Tennessee. Founded in 1876 as part of the Medical Department at Central Tennessee College, MMC was the first medical school for African Americans in the South. It is now the second largest educator of African American medical doctors and dentists in the United States, with the highest percentage of African Americans graduating with Ph.D.s in the biomedical sciences in the country. “I was taught by Black teachers for the first time in my life.” Now as an OB-GYN, she says, “When I walk into a room to care for a patient, no matter who they are, my goal is to have a human connection with them.” Monica creates connections, even in the time of COVID19. She recently created a Facebook Group for OB-GYNs to share their experiences. In a week, more than 2,000 fellow OB-GYNs joined and there have been more than 4,000 posts of people sharing their stories from around the country and around the world. These connections, she hopes, will create and build communities. Perhaps they will create a spark for a girl in a science classroom, a girl with goals and dreams. And she can act as a mentor to remind her that her dreams are achievable.