Alexa Irene Canady: The First African-American Woman Neurosurgeon


Shearwood McClelland III M.D.


Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN



The advances of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century made it possible for many African-Americans to have the opportunity to enter the distinguished field of neurosurgery, beginning in 1953 with Clarence S. Greene, Sr.  This report details the career and exploits of the first African-American woman neurosurgeon, Alexa Irene Canady. 



A comprehensive review of pertinent modern and historical records spanning the past century was performed. 



Born on November 7, 1950 in Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Canady received her M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1975, graduating with distinction and being elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. Training in neurosurgery under Dr. Shelley Chou from 1976-1981 at the University of Minnesota, she became the program's first female graduate.  Following residency, she trained as a pediatric neurosurgery fellow at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  In 1984, Dr. Canady became the first African-American woman certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.  She subsequently continued a long, distinguished career in pediatric neurosurgery, first at Henry Ford and later as chief of neurosurgery at Children's Hospital of Michigan before retiring in 2001.  Among her many accolades, she was named 1993 Woman of the Year by the American Woman's Medical Association. 



The diligence, perseverance and commitment of Alexa Irene Canady M.D. enabled her to overcome tremendous odds to become the first African-American woman neurosurgeon, trained at the University of Minnesota.  A true pioneer, her achievements have inspired many, opening the door for subsequent African-American women to enhance the field of neurosurgery.





Alexa Irene Canady, African-American Woman Neurosurgeon, University of Minnesota, Shelley Chou, American Board of Neurological Surgery