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Profiling Alexa Canady, The First African American To Become A Neurosurgeon

| How Africa News


Dr. Alexa Irene Canady broke gender and colour barriers by becoming the first American woman and first black person to become a neurosurgeon.

Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1950 to Elizabeth Hortense Canady and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr., a dentist – her father from the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry and her mother from Fisk University.

She and her brother were the only black students at the local schools where she graduated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. Canady entered the University of Michigan as a math major, but when the opportunity arose, she transferred into the school’s pre-med program.

She graduated in 1971 and was accepted into Michigan’s College of Medicine where she graduated magna cum laude in 1975. Canady interned at New Haven Hospital, Yale’s primary teaching hospital, before she became America’s first female and first black neurosurgeon as a resident at the University of Minnesota.

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After five years of training Canady accepted a fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia from 1981-82 where she taught at the Pennsylvania College of Medicine at the same time.

While serving at the Children’s Hospital, Canady conducted research and taught as a professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University until her retirement in 2001.

She has specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors.

Upon retirement, Canady moved to Florida where she learned that there were no pediatric neurosurgeons in her area so she began to practice part-time at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital.

Throughout her 20-year career in pediatric neurosurgery, Dr. Canady has helped thousands of patients, most of them age 10 or younger.

In 1983 she retuned to Michigan as a neurosurgeon at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. She also joined the staff of Children’s Hospital of Michigan as a pediatric neurosurgeon.  Three years later Canady, at the age of 36, became the chief of staff, a position she retained until 2001.

In 1989, Canady was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and in 1993 she received the American Medical Women’s Association President’s Award.

The following year, in 1994 she got the Distinguished Service Award from Wayne State University Medical School.

She is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and the American College of Neurosurgery.

She has also been awarded three honorary degrees – doctor of humane letters honorary degrees from the University of Detroit-Mercy in 1997 and Roosevelt University in 2014, and also a doctor of science from the University of Southern Connecticut in 1999.

Later Canady taught at Wayne State University and in 1997 became the Medical School’s clinical professor of neurosurgery. In 1993 Canady was named the American Medical Women’s Medical Association Woman of the Year and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

To celebrate her achievement of being the first African-American woman to become a Neurosurgeon, Dr. Canady was also featured in a Nickelodeon Black History Month short animation that aired in February of 2015.

Written by How Africa News

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