Alexa Canady

First Woman and First African American to become a Neurosurgeon


Alexa Irene Canady born to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Clinton Canady Jr. on November 7, 1950 in Lansing Michigan. Both colleges educated her father a graduate of the School of Dentistry of Meharry Medical College, thus a highly respected Dentist in Lansing. Her mother a graduate of Fiasco University, and formerly active in civic affairs of Lansing. She also served as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Alexa Canady and her only younger brother grew up outside Lansing along with both their parents. They were the only two black students in the entire school, creating only the beginning of her struggles with minority confrontations. In fact her last couple of years in high school coincided with the civil rights movements of the 1960's. Despite the obstacles, Canady was an exceptional student and named a National Achievement Scholar in 1967.

An example of her non-recognition due to being black and a woman came on her first day of her residency at Yale New Hane Hospital (1975-76). She was appointed as first female and first black to a residency in neurosurgery. 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 herself and both women and African Americans.

Today, Canady is the director of neurosurgery at Children's Hospital in Detroit and a clinical associate professor at Wayne State University. Her Areas of Expertise are Craniofacial Abnormalities, Epilepsy, Hydrocephalus, Pediatric Neurosurgery, and Tumors of Spinal Cord and Brain. She has also contributed to special research topics such as assist in th6 development of neuroendoscopic equipment, evaluating programmable pressure change valves in hydrocephalus, head injury, hydrocephalus and shunts, neuroendoscopy, and pregnancy complications of shunts.

Besides Dr. Canady's position as the director of pediatric neurosurgery, she also is aiming at changing the perspective of how African Americans both as patients and physicians are being presumed and perceived. She claims the major medical problem for African Americans stems from the scarcity of research targeting their specific health concerns and needs. She said, " As a result treatment of African Americans has often stemmed from presumptions and preconceived notions, rather than from documented studies." The example she gave for this statement was one of the most notorious of such studies is the infamous Tuskegee study that tracked the progression of untreated syphilis in more than 400 black men, a study that continued into the 1970's, well after effective treatments had been discovered. Dr. Canady believes the issues will be better addressed now that medical schools are diversifying their student bodies and their faculties. She feels very optimistic about the changing face of American medicine. And she knows that her own accomplishments are helping to inspire the dreams of a younger generation.

Speaking of a younger generation, Dr. Canady will be one of twelve minority women being recognized in a series of posters labeled Women of Hope. These posters will recognize women from different countries around the world who have made significant contributions to their communities and increase the visibility and work of minority women. The posters will provide role models to any and all students. They will be displayed in libraries, schools, colleges, subways, buses, and airports.

Education & Training

University of Michigan, BS, 1971

University of Michigan, Medical School, M.D. cum laude, 1975

Yale New Hane Hospital, 1975-76 - Internship

University of Minnesota, Neurosurgery, 1976-81

University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Ped.Neurosurg.1981-82

Special Honors

Alumni, University of Michigan, 1991

Teacher of the Year, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, 1983

Elected to Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society, 1975


G. Jeri Lujan


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