E. Latunde Odeku: The First African-American Neurosurgeon Trained In The United States


Shearwood McClelland III M.D.1, Kimbra S. Harris B.S.2


1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN; 2Division of Neuro-Oncology, The Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX




The opportunities afforded by the advances of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century and the success of the first African-American neurosurgeons trained at the Montreal Neurological Institute have led to a number of African-Americans receiving neurosurgery training within the United States.  Unfortunately, the details regarding the first African-American neurosurgeon trained in the United States, E. Latunde Odeku, have largely remained in obscurity.



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



Born on June 29, 1927 in Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Odeku received his M.D. from the Howard University College of Medicine in 1954 (1).  He spent the next year at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Edgar A. Kahn, chief of neurosurgery and was impressive enough to be offered a residency position.  After spending the following year in Nigeria as a medical officer at the Lagos General Hospital, he returned to the U.S. and trained under Dr. Kahn from 1956-1960 (1-3).  Following residency, he spent the next year training in neuropathology under Dr. Wess Haymaker and in pediatric neurosurgery under Dr. Eugene Spitz.  In 1961, he returned to Howard as a member of the neurosurgery faculty, during which he became the second African-American certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery (2-4).  Although he had multiple job offers in the United States, he chose to return to Nigeria where he worked tirelessly providing excellent neurosurgical care and discipleship until his death in 1974 (1). 



The diligence and intelligence of E. Latunde Odeku M.D., F.A.C.S. enabled him to overcome incredible odds and become the first African-American neurosurgeon trained in the United States (University of Michigan).  A truly global pioneer, his selfless service in America and Nigeria opened the door for people from each country to enhance the field of neurosurgery. 




E. Latunde Odeku, African-American Neurosurgeon, Edgar Kahn, University of Michigan, American Board of Neurological Surgery, Howard University College of Medicine




1.  Be familiar with the first African-American board-certified neurosurgeon trained in the United States

2.  Know the first United States neurosurgery program to train an African-American resident

3.  Be familiar with the impact of E. Latunde Odeku M.D., F.A.C.S. on neurosurgery in American and Nigeria




1.    Adeloye A. Obituary: Professor E. Latunde Odeku B.Sc., M.D., L.M.C.C. (Canada), D.A.B.N.S., F.I.C.S., F.A.C.S., F.M.C.S. (Nigeria). Surg Neurol. 1975;3:187.

2.    Kahn EA. Letter: E. Latunde Odeku. J Neurosurg. 1975;42:364.

3.    Adeloye, A. E. Latunde Odeku: an African neurosurgeon. Ibadan University Press, 1976.

4.    Cobb WM, Epps Jr. CH, Kosiba MM. Certification pioneers. In: Organ CM, Kosiba MM eds. A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S. Experience. Vol. II. Oklahoma: Transcript Press, 1987;483-528.