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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Woman of the Week – Alexa Canady

Posted July 17, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Alexa Canady is the first woman and African American neurosurgeon in the United States. She grew up in Lansing, Michigan and overcame many obstacles over the course of her education and study.

Canady's parents taught her and her brother about the importance of education and hard work as a child. Canady and her younger brother were the only two African-American students in their school. They faced many obstacles throughout their school years. Her upbringing and strong sense of self allowed her to overcome the obstacles of the time and have great academic success.

Before university, Alexa Canady was nominated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. She attended the University of Michigan, where she received her B.S. degree in zoology in 1971 and became a member of Delta Sigma Theta. She later received her M.D. with cum laude honors from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1975. She then became a surgical intern at the Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1975-1976, rotating under Dr. William F. Collins.

Although being an exceptional student, she still faced prejudice and discriminative comments as she was both the first black and female intern in the program. She then became the first African American woman neurosurgery resident in the U.S. at the University of Minnesota. Despite what people said about her, Canady viewed her accomplishments as something both women and African Americans could look up to. She often worried her skin color and/or gender would hold her back from certain opportunities.

On her first day of residency at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, 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." Comments like these – which illustrated certain people’s way of thinking – made it hard for her to convince top administrators to allow her to work in neurosurgery, despite her tremendous credentials.

Canady spent most of her working life as the Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital of Michigan. She held this role from 1987 until her retirement in 2001. During her time as Chief, she specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma, and brain tumors. In addition to her medical work, she also pushed to change the perspective of how African Americans, both as patients and physicians, are perceived. She claims the major medical problem for Blacks stems from the scarcity of research targeting their specific health concerns and needs. Her work and accomplishments have opened the door for surgeons of all races and genders.

She also earned many awards and distinctions. Canady was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1989. Canady received the American Medical Women’s Association President’s Award in 1993 and in 1994 was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from Wayne State University Medical School. In 1984 she was named Teacher of the Year by Children's Hospital of Michigan. She received a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1986. She is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and the American college of Neurosurgery.

Canady has also been awarded three honorary degrees – doctor of humane letters honorary degrees from the University of Detroit-Mercy in 1997 and Roosevelt University in 2014, and a doctor of science from the University of Southern Connecticut in 1999.

Though she is retired from practicing, she still works to change the landscape for African Americans in the medical field.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexa_Canady

https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_53.html

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/alexa-canady-first-female-and-first-black-resident-neurosurgery

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