Alexa Canady, first female and first black appointed to a residency in neurosurgery
Alexa I. Canady
On this date in 1950 Alexa Canady was born. She is an African-American Neurosurgeon.
Canady was the first Woman and first African American to become a Neurosurgeon in America. From Lansing Michigan, Alexa Irene Canady is the daughter of Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Clinton Canady Jr. Her father was a graduate of the School of Dentistry of Meharry Medical College, practicing in Lansing. Her mother was a graduate of Fiasco University was active for years in civic affairs of Lansing. She also served as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Young Canady and her brother grew up outside Lansing and were the only two Black students in the entire school. Despite the obstacles, Canady was an exceptional student and named a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. She attended the University of Michigan, getting her BS, degree in 1971. After this came the University of Michigan, Medical School, and her M.D. cum laude in 1975. Canady’s Interned at Yale’s New Hane Hospital from 1975 to 1976, and an example of her non-recognition due to being Black and a woman came on her first day of her residency at Yale New Hane Hospital. She was appointed as first female and first black to a residency in neurosurgery. As she began making her rounds a hospital administrator referred to her as "the new equal-opportunity package." Despite the remark, Dr. Canady viewed her accomplishment as a double achievement for herself and both women and African Americans.
From there she went to the University of Minnesota in neurosurgery, from 1976 to 1981. She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Ped Neurosurg from 1981-82. Currently, Canady is the director of neurosurgery at Children's Hospital in Detroit and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State University. Her Areas of Expertise are Craniofacial Abnormalities, Epilepsy, Hydrocephalus, Pediatric Neurosurgery, and Tumors of Spinal Cord and Brain. She has also added to special research topics such as assisting in the development of neuroendoscopic equipment, evaluating programmable pressure change valves in hydrocephalus, head injury, hydrocephalus and shunts, neuroendoscopy, and pregnancy complications of shunts.
Besides Dr. Canady's position as the director of pediatric neurosurgery, she also works to change the perspective of how African Americans both how patients and physicians are perceived. She claims the major medical problem for Blacks stems from the scarcity of research targeting their specific health concerns and needs. Canady believes the issues will be better addressed now that medical schools are diversifying their student bodies and their faculties.
In 1975, Canady was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society. In 1983, she was Teacher of the Year, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and in 1991, Dr. Canady was honored as Alumni, University of Michigan.
Dr. Canady holds two honorary degrees: a doctorate of humane letters from the University of Detroit-Mercy, awarded in 1997, and a doctor of science degree from the University of Southern Connecticut, awarded in 1999. She received the Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Teacher of the Year award in 1984, and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1993, she received the American Medical Women’s Association President’s Award and in 1994 the Distinguished Service Award from Wayne State University Medical School. In 2002, the Detroit News named her Michiganer of the Year.
Dr. Canady is now retired and has more time to spend with her husband, and on working to change the view and assumptions about black patients and black medical personnel. She claims the major medical problem for blacks stems from the scarcity of research targeting their specific health concerns and needs.
I Dream A World: Portraits of Black women Who Changed America
Edited by Barbara Summers
Photos and Interviews by Brian lanker
Copyright 1989, workman Publishing
Canady, Alexa Irene