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Alumnae Stories

Dr. Erika van Putten-Anderson - Impacting the Next Generation of Doctors

January 2023

Dr Erika van Putten-AndersonErika van Putten-Anderson, M.D., FAAP, C'94, is a Board-certified general pediatrician in Marietta, Georgia. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman; and obtained her medical degree and completed her pediatric residency from Penn State University College of Medicine in 1998 and 2001 respectively.

Dr. van Putten-Anderson is committed to helping underserved communities. After residency, she spent four years working in an impoverished area in Newark, New Jersey before returning to metro Atlanta. She is dedicated to helping her community and pouring into the next generation. She actively volunteers in several community-based organizations and has been a mentor to both Spelman and Penn State students throughout the years.

Due to her involvement in student education and contributions to the Health Science Program at Spelman, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017.  Dr. van Putten-Anderson is currently a mentor in the Diverse Student Champion Program and a member of Diversity Scholarship Selection Committee at Penn State University College of Medicine. She is a wife and mother of four and an associate at Cobb Pediatrics, PC in  Marietta. Dr. van Putten-Anderson is a member and fellow of the American  Academy of  PediatricsNational Medical Association and the  National  Alumni Association of Spelman College.


In Her Own Words: Spelman Instilled in me the Qualities of Hard Work, Determination and Persistence

Large Blue Quote LeftGrowing up in my household as the youngest daughter of two West Indian Ph.D.s, there was never a question of IF I was going to college. It was just a matter of WHERE. I learned about Spelman College, applied and was accepted via early decision. After being accepted, I carefully mapped out my college plan and thought I was ready for the college experience. In July 1990, I started the Summer Health Science Program at Spelman. As I walked through the gates of the College, I knew that it was going to be so much more than I had planned. I could never have imagined what God had in store for me. At Spelman, my life changed.

Spelman not only taught me how to succeed academically, but She nurtured me and gave me a space to discover who I was becoming. She instilled in me the qualities of hard work, determination, persistence, pride in being a woman and more importantly pride in being a Black woman. Spelman also taught me the value of community service and philanthropy. Even after all that I had  been given, She gave me an even more cherished gift -- five new sisters from different  places and backgrounds to live life with -- we call ourselves "The Posse.”

The Posse Establishes the Pink Purpose Endowed Scholarship in Loving Memory of Their Sister Dr. Tara Ayodele Heyliger, C'94 

Spelman Sisters Establish Pink Purpose Scholarship in Memory of Dr. Tara Ayodele Heyliger

The Posse is fitting because then and now we rally for each other, we travel together, we cry with each other, we laugh with each other and we fight for each other. Our meeting was not luck nor by chance. It was ordained. Then after more than 20 years of sisterhood, life  does as it does and threw us a curve ball. In 2013, two of us were diagnosed with breast cancer. As we do, we all rallied together and we supported and fought with our sisters. We won. Sadly, one of our sisters won the battle on the other side. She  transitioned to be in Glory with her mother and our Ancestors in April 2018. Her name is Dr. Tara Ayodele Heyliger. She was an OB/Gyn physician from Silver Spring, Maryland. She is still, and will always be, our light, but now she is shining down on us. 

Prior to her death, The Posse discussed what we could do to give back to Spelman -- the institution that had given us so much. The idea of the Pink Purpose Scholarship was conceived during that conversation; and the Pink Purpose Scholarship began as an annual scholarship for Spelman health careers students in financial need in 2017. It has since  progressed to the Pink Purpose Endowed Scholarship in the memory of our sister, Dr. Tara Ayodele Heyliger, C'94.

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My advice to my Spelman sisters is to trust in God and believe in yourself. There will be many people who say you can’t do it. But know that you can, and if you work for it, you will. Do not be afraid to find what God has for you. Receive what every experience has for you. Spelman is one glorious stop on your  journey but keep going  and growing. Once you get to your next destination never forget to give back with your  time and with your money to the place where it all began. It takes all of us to keep our beloved Spelman College Undaunted.