Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr.: The First African-American Neurosurgeon
1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN; 2Division of Neuro-Oncology, The Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX
Due largely to the advances of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century, an increasing number of African-Americans have had the opportunity to become physicians and enter the distinguished field of neurosurgery. Many have made the most of this opportunity, becoming prominent in both academics and private practice. Unfortunately, the details regarding the first African-American neurosurgeon, Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr., have remained in relative obscurity.
A comprehensive review of pertinent modern and historical records spanning the past century was performed.
Born on December 26, 1901 in Washington D.C., Dr. Greene received his M.D. from the Howard University College of Medicine with distinction in 1936. Following seven years of general surgery residency and four years as a professor of surgery at Howard, he was granted the opportunity by the legendary Wilder G. Penfield to train in neurosurgery at the world-renowned Montreal Neurological Institute from 1947-1949. Receiving high praise from Dr. Penfield, Dr. Greene became the first African-American certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery on October 22, 1953. Subsequently, he was appointed as chair of neurosurgery at Howard University, where he successfully treated intracranial aneurysms, brain tumors and herniated intervertebral discs until his tragic death in 1957.
In summary, the diligence and perseverance of Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr., M.D., F.A.C.S. enabled him to overcome incredible odds to become the first African-American neurosurgeon, trained by Dr. Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute. A true pioneer, his achievements have opened the door for subsequent African-Americans to enhance the field of neurosurgery.
Clarence Sumner Greene Sr., African-American Neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, Montreal Neurological Institute, American Board of Neurological Surgery, Howard University College of Medicine
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2. Leffall Jr. LD, Syphax BM. The Howard University department of surgery and Freedmenís hospital. In: Organ CM, Kosiba MM eds. A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S. Experience. Vol. I. Oklahoma: Transcript Press, 1987;1-62.
3. Yancey AG. The life of Charles R. Drew, M.D. In: Organ CM, Kosiba MM eds. A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S. Experience. Vol. I. Oklahoma: Transcript Press, 1987;63-102.
4. Tollett CA. Frederick D. Stubbs, M.D. In: Organ CM, Kosiba MM eds. A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S. Experience. Vol. II. Oklahoma: Transcript Press, 1987;529-558.