Black History Spotlight: Dr. Alexa Irene Canady

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, first African-American female pediatric neurosurgeon in the U.S.

By Denise Williams
The Florida/Georgia Star

Dr. Alexa Canady was a pioneer of her time by becoming the first African-American female pediatric neurosurgeon in the U.S. in 1981. Later in her medical vocation she served as chief of neurosurgery at The Children’s Hospital of Michigan from the years 1987 – 2001.

Alexa Irene Canady was born November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. Her mother, Elizabeth Canady was a Fisk University graduate pursuing a career as an educator and later held the position of Delta Sigma Theta sorority national president. Her father, Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr. a graduate of Dentistry of Meharry Medical School who also served as a member of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen prior to pursuing his career in dentistry. The couple wed in 1945, parented two children and went on to celebrate in total 65 years of marriage until Elizabeth’s death in 2010.

Canady’s educational accolades read like a grocery list as she has achieved several advanced degrees, honorary degrees, and Fellowships over her extraordinary career. She received her undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of Michigan in 1971, then went on to acquire medical credentials from the university’s medical school graduating cum laude in 1975. She completed her surgical internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1976. In 1981, she completed her residency in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota Hospitals. She earned a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. She worked at the Henry Ford Hospital, the Children’s’ Hospital of Michigan and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1989. As recently as 2002, Canady was named Michiganian of the year by Detroit News. She was also awarded honorary degrees from Marygrove College, Central Michigan University, Roosevelt University, University of Southern Connecticut University of West Florida and the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Canady retired from her position as Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 2001 and relocated to the Pensacola, Florida area. After relocating, she discovered the area was devoid of a pediatric neurosurgeon, which prompted her to begin practicing part-time at Pensacola’ Sacred Heart Hospital. She continues to reside in Florida and is currently 66 years old.

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