Alexa Irene Canady (born November 7, 1950) is a retired American medical doctor specializing in neurosurgery. She was born in Lansing, Michigan and earned both her bachelors and medical degree from the University of Michigan. After completing her residency at the University of Minnesota in 1981, she became the first black person to become a neurosurgeon. Canady specialized in pediatric neurosurgery and was the chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987 until her retirement in 2001. In addition to surgery she also conducted research and was a professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University. After her retirement, she moved to Florida and maintained part-time practice at Pensacola’s Sacred Heart Hospital.
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Her mother was an educator and former national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She also spent years being active in civic affairs within the city of Lansing. Her father was a dentist. Her parents attended Fisk University where they met and later married on her mother’s 18th birthday right before her father’s deployment during World War II. Her father is also a graduate of Dentistry of Meharry Medical College and her mother is a graduate of Fisk University. Canady’s parents taught her about the importance of education and hard work as a child, which would help her ultimately graduate from high school with honors.
Canady and her younger brother were raised outside of Lansing and were the only two African-American students in their school. They faced many obstacles throughout their school years. However, despite these obstacles, Canady stood out among her peers academically, both in the classroom and by earning high scores on her tests in school. She graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Medical School.
Despite her academic accomplishments, Dr. Canady still faced challenges as the first African American woman in her field. On her first day of residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1975, she was tending to her patients when one of the hospital’s top administrators passed through the ward. As he went by, she heard him say, “Oh, you must be our new equal-opportunity package.” Just a few years later, while working as a neurosurgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from 1981 to 1982, her fellow physicians voted her one of the top residents.
During her career, Dr. Canady was awarded multiple honorary degrees for her accomplishments and services to her her profession.
In 2002, the Detroit News named Dr. Canady Michiganer of the Year.
Changing the Face of Medicine, courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.