African American History Forum
CANADY (1950-) 1st black female neurosurg
DR. ALEXA I. CANADY (1950-) is the first black female neurosurgeon.
Canady was born November 7, 1950, to Clinton and Elizabeth Canady. Her father was a dentist, and her mother served as president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, in addition to other civic affairs. The family lived just outside Lansing, Michigan. Canady and her brother were the only two black students in their entire school.
Canady was an exceptional student and named a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. She attended the University of Michigan, earning her bachelor’s in zoology in 1971, although she had almost dropped out of college. She explains, “The summer after my junior year, I worked in Dr. Bloom’s lab in genetics and attended a genetic counseling clinic. I fell in love with medicine.”
She continued her studies at the University of Michigan Medical School, earning her M.D. in 1975, graduating cum laude. Following graduation, Canady interned at Yale’s New Haven Hospital for a year. She was appointed the first female and first black person to a residency in neurosurgery. On her first day, as she began making her rounds, a hospital administrator referred to her as “the new equal-opportunity package.” Despite the remark, Dr. Canady viewed her accomplishment as a double achievement for not only herself, but also her race and gender.