Alumni Profile: Matthew Hardee
For Dr. Matthew Hardee, there was never any question about where he would attend college and what he would choose as a major.
Hardee, a radiation oncologist at CARTI in Little Rock, is the son of Dr. John Hardee, a professor of chemistry and dean of the Ellis College of Arts and Sciences at Henderson State.
“Of course I had no choice but to be interested in chemistry with a father who is a physical chemist and professor,” Matthew Hardee said.
Hardee began taking classes for credit at Henderson when he was 15.
“I had a bit of a non-traditional education,” he said. “After eighth grade, I was technically home schooled, although I basically audited a full-time course load at Henderson. After a year of that, I started taking classes for credit.”
After graduating from Henderson in 2000, Hardee completed a combined M.D./Ph.D. program at Duke University in 2007. After a transitional year internship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York City, he served a four-year radiation oncology residency at New York University.
While at Duke, Hardee received a Medical Scientist Training Program Fellowship and a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Predoctoral Traineeship Grant. He also received the Duke Cancer Center Award for Outstanding Radiation Oncology Research.
Hardee moved back to Arkansas and joined the staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) as an assistant professor in radiation oncology for three years. He has been at CARTI for almost two years.
Hardee said chemistry is a prerequisite for medical school for a good reason.
“There’s no way to grasp concepts of more advanced biochemistry and how they relate to the basics of medicine without a solid foundation in basic chemistry concepts,” he said. “It’s not like I use chemical formulas and the periodic table and all the other things people think about in my day-to-day work, but I use it more than you would think.
“In radiation oncology, I actually use practical radiochemistry nearly every day.”
Hardee said undergraduate research at Henderson played a key role in his success.
“It was super helpful for my career path for a couple of reasons,” he said. “One, it really opened the door and was a big reason I was able to get accepted to the M.D./Ph.D. program at Duke. Secondly, that sort of research and work helps develop critical thinking skills and different ways of looking at problems and obstacles that come your way in whatever job you have.”
Hardee calls Henderson’s chemistry program a “maybe not so hidden” gem.
“It’s a really strong department, so much so that it recently received American Chemistry Society accreditation and is one of only four or five departments in the state with that designation,” he said. “I was a member of the Chemistry Club, which was a lot of fun and a great way to be even more involved.
“It’s cliché, but my advice to students is to get as involved as you can. A strong department and great faculty are great, but you get out of it what you put in,” he said. “I went to medical school with people from all over the country, including a lot of Ivy League schools, and I felt as prepared for medical school as they did.”
When asked to describe himself, Hardee said, “My wife says I’m very down-to-earth despite having a very specialized education and that I’m able to talk to and carry a conversation with just about anyone because of varied interests. I think being at Duke and then New York City, getting exposed to such a mixed population, combined with my wife’s volunteer work with a local LGBT organization, has made me more aware of issues facing those communities.”
Hardee said he enjoys simple woodworking and doing home improvement projects. He is also “into” bird watching/identification and collecting butterflies.
If he hadn’t majored in chemistry, Hardee said he would have chosen another science, “probably biology.”
• This alumni feature is part of an ongoing project featuring Henderson’s outstanding undergraduate and graduate academic programs.