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Jan 31, 2020
by: Carrie Larsen
Black History Month: Dr. Alexa Irene Canady

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady is a visionary.

It is because of her vision that she has forever changed the face of medicine.

Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr. Her mother was an educator and former national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She became Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 1987 and held the position until her retirement in 2001. During her time as Chief, she specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors. Her work and accomplishments have opened the door for many surgeons to be of all races and genders.

When her internship ended in 1976, Canady moved to the University of Minnesota, becoming, as a resident of the university’s department of neurosurgery, the first female African-American neurosurgery resident in the United States. Upon completing her residency in 1981, she became the country’s first female African-American neurosurgeon.

“Convincing the neurosurgery chairman that I was not a risk to drop out or be fired, a disaster in a program where there are only one or two residents per year was one of my hardest obstacles. I was the first African American woman [in the department]. Along with that, my other greatest obstacle was convincing myself that someone would give me a chance to work as a neurosurgeon.”

She then became a surgical intern at the Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1975-1976, rotating und Dr. William F. Collins. Although being an exceptional student, she still faced prejudice and discriminative comments as she was both the first black and female intern in the program. She then became the first African American woman neurosurgery resident in the US at the University of Minnesota. Despite what people said about her, Canady viewed her accomplishments as something both women and African Americans could look up to.

In addition to her other responsibilities, Canady conducted research and taught as a professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University. She maintained a busy schedule until her retirement from the Children’s Hospital in 2001. After retiring, Canady moved to Florida. When she learned that there were no pediatric neurosurgeons in her immediate area, she began to practice part-time at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital.

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