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It's not rocket science, but it IS brain surgery!

I’ve been reading with great interest about Dr. Alexa Canady – a woman of many firsts!! Actually, this blog was to have been posted last week, but I am a bit confused by some of the information I have been reading on-line. She is a pediatric neurosurgeon, a physician specializing in brain surgery with a focus on taking care of children, and has been called the first African American woman, the first woman, and the first African American neurosurgeon trained in the U.S.! But I came across a few conflicting articles.

Dr. Canady was born in Lansing MI and received her undergraduate degree at U Mich in 1971. She went on to receive her MD at the College of Medicine at U Mich in 1975 and completed a surgery internship at Yale-New Haven hospital in 1976. It has been said that she entered her neurosurgery residency at Univ. of Minnesota in 1976, becoming the first black female neurosurgery resident in the US. But here is why I am confused – was there a black male neurosurgery resident in the US before her? That history is a bit obscure.

While Dr. Clarence Summer Greene, Sr. is the first practicing neurosurgeon in the U.S., he trained in Canada. There is a report of a physician from Nigeria, Dr. E. Latunde Odeku, who received his MD from Howard University in 1954 and then completed a neurosurgical residency at U Mich in 1960. He is reportedly the first African-American trained in neurosurgery in the U.S. After practicing a short while in the U.S., he returned to his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria.

The first American woman is said to have been board certified in Neurosurgery in 1960. So I am going to highlight a few of Dr. Canady’s known firsts:

· First black woman neurosurgeon in the U.S.

· First black woman neurosurgeon hired at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital

· First black woman certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery

· First black director of Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan

I am sure there are more!!! For those of you who are not aware, neurosurgery is probably one of the most challenging specialties and training programs. Not an easy training for anyone and as the first Black woman, I am almost certain Dr. Canady faced an array of microaggressions and frank racism in her day. What an amazing role model for young women!

I was worried that because I was a black woman, any practice opportunities would be limited. By being patient-centered, the practice growth was exponential. -Dr. Alexa Canady

In 1989, Dr. Canady was inducted into the Michigan Women’s hall of fame – a great and fitting honor for this very special lady! Dr. Canady officially retired from practicing medicine a second time in 2012. She continues to be an advocate for encouraging young women to pursue careers in medicine and neurosurgery.

Hear from Dr. Alexa Canady about why we need young neurosurgeons.



Hi, I'm Dr. Karen!

For years, I have been obsessed with understanding why some communities are more greatly impacted by disease than others. So as a medical/graduate student, I decided that I wanted to make sure that everyone had equal access to healthcare and we would no longer have underserved populations in the U.S.

This blog, and this site, is dedicated to the pursuit of eradicating health disparities and empowering communities and individuals to take charge of their own health. 

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