Alexa Canady

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Alexa Canady
Alexa Canady.jpg
Born (1950-11-07) November 7, 1950 (age 65)
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
Education University of Michigan
Occupation Pediatric neurosurgeon, educator
Years active 1981–present
Known for first American woman and first black person to become a neurosurgeon

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 not only the first American woman but also the first black person to become a neurosurgeon.[1] 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. In 1989, Canady was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, and in 1933 she also received the American Medical Women's Association President's Award.

Early life and Education[edit]

Alexa Irene Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr. Her mother was an educator and former national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.[2] She also spent years being active in civic affairs within the city of Lansing and her father 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 School and her mother's a graduate of Fiasco University. Canady's parents taught her about the importance of education and hard work as a child, which would help ultimately her 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 was an exceptional student and excelled above many of her white peers, earning exceptionally high scores on her tests in school.[3] Before university, Alexa Canady was nominated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967.[4] Dr. Canady 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 [5] 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.[5] She then became the first African American woman neurosurgery resident in the US at the University of Minnesota .[6] Despite what people said about her, Canady viewed her accomplishments as something both women and African Americans could look up to.[5]


She became Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in 1987 and held the position until her retirement in 2001. During her time as Chief, she specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors.[7] Her work and accomplishments have opened the door for many surgeons to be of all races and genders.

Awards and Honors[edit]

Canady was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1989.[8] 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.[9] In 1984 she was named Teacher of the Year by Children's Hospital of Michigan. 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.[3]

She 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.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Changing the Face of Medicine – Dr. Alexa Irene Canady". Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Delta Sigma Theta Mourns 18th National President, Hortense Golden Canady". Chicago Alumnae Chapter DST. 
  3. ^ a b McClelland, Shearwood (2008). "Alexa Irene Canady". Journal of the National Medical Association (4). Retrieved 12/09/15.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ African American Registry
  5. ^ a b c "Alexa Canady, first female and first black appointed to a residency in neurosurgery | African American Registry". 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 
  6. ^ Staff. "Opening She was a Fellow in Pediatric Neurosurgery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 1981–1982.Doors". NIH. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "Women's History Month Profile: Alexa Irene Canady, M.D. | New York Women in Communications, Inc.". 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Alexa I. Canady: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame –". 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012. induction into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1989 
  9. ^ "BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: DR. ALEXA CANADY | CONCRETELOOP.COM". 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012. In 1993, she received the American Medical Women’s Association President’s Award and in 1994 the Distinguished Service Award from Wayne State University Medical School. 

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