Alexa Canady, M.D., the first woman and first African American to become a neurosurgeon in the U.S., delivered the keynote address for the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Black History Month celebration on Saturday, Feb. 23. A sizable crowd attended the event at Erie’s East High School auditorium.
Hank Hill, M.D., section head of surgical oncology and endoscopy at St. Vincent Health Center in Erie, delivered the opening remarks and introduced Dr. Canady. Dr. Hill delivered a presentation reflecting on those of African-American descent who played a pivotal role in the field of medicine.
|Dr. Alexa Canady addresses those gathered at East High School in Erie during LECOM's SNMA Black History Month event.|
During her talk, Dr. Canady discussed the importance of working hard and dedicating oneself to challenges throughout life in order to make the most out of one’s life. She noted that life does not always follow a linear path to success, and that it’s important for people who find success in life to remember the troubles along the way. She urged the attendees to take advantage of any opportunities that come their way and to realize that every new opportunity could take you down a path that ultimately will enrich you.
Dr. Canady applied for a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota. She became the first black female to enter the field in American history. “When I got a residency in neurosurgery, I got it not because I'm smarter than somebody 40 years ago, but because the politics were such that they needed a black woman and I was there and qualified,” Canady said in “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed the World.” “I had impeccable credentials coming out of medical school, but there was an undercurrent of, ‘How can you, a black woman, have the audacity to want to do this? Don't you know that you've got a double whammy?’ Well, I came along at a time when it offered them a double positive. They could fulfill the quotas and say, ‘I finished woman, I finished black, and all it took was one person instead of two.’ So that became a positive for me.”
Dr. Canady became a neurosurgeon in 1977 at age 26. Raised in a family of intellectuals who valued education highly, she drew inspiration from her grandmother, who became a school teacher at age 16, and her mother, who completed college at age 19. Dr. Canady’s appointments include the Peter Scotanus Professor of pediatric neurosurgery at Wayne State University, Chief of Neurosurgery Children’s Hospital of Michigan, and Chairman of the Neurological Devices Panel of the Food and Drug Administration.
From 1987 to 2001, she was chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Canady earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor, Mich. She completed her surgical internship at Yale University-New Haven Hospital and her neurosurgical residency at the University of Minnesota Hospitals, followed by fellowship training in pediatric neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The Student National Medical Association is the nation’s oldest and largest independent, student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color. Membership includes more than 7,000 medical students, pre-medical students, residents and physicians. Established in 1964 by medical students from Howard University School of Medicine and Meharry Medical College, SNMA boasts more than 40 years of service to underserved communities and medical students. SNMA is dedicated both to ensuring culturally sensitive medical education and services, as well as increasing the number of African-American, Latino and other students of color entering and completing medical school.