MI Black History: America’s First Black Woman Neurosurgeon

Q: What is the name of America’s first female African-American neurosurgeon, who happened to be born in Michigan?

A: Alexa Canady. Born in Lansing in 1950, Canady earned a degree in zoology from the University of Michigan in 1971, and then continued on to the university’s medical school. Though discouraged from pursuing the study of neurology, Canady persisted, and was eventually accepted as a surgical intern at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she went after graduating, cum laude, from the University of Michigan’s medical school. After her internship, Canady went to the University of Minnesota, where she became the first female African-American neurosurgeon in 1981. She would work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit before working at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, where she retired in 2001. However, after moving to Pensacola, Fla., and learning there were no pediatric neurosurgeons nearby, she returned to work.

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