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Alexa Irene Canady (born November 7, 1950) is a medical doctor specializing in neurosurgery. She is widely noted as the first woman and the first African-American to become a neurosurgeon, which she achieved in 1981. Alexa Irene Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady (former national president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority) and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr., a dentist.
Before university, Alexa Canady was nominated as a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. She received exceptionally high scores on standardized tests in gade school; scores that greatly surpassed her peers. Dr. Canady attended the University of Michigan where she received her B.S. degree in zoology in 1971 and pledged 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. Going on to become the first African American woman neurosurgery resident in the US at the University of Minnesota.
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. Her work and accomplishments have opened the door for many surgeons to be of all races and genders.
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 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.
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.