We will be adding to this collection regularly throughout Black History Month (October) 2021. Please do check back later for more.
Alexa Irene Canady almost decided to drop out of undergraduate college due to a lack of self-confidence. However, something inside her rose up when she fell in love with medicine. She applied and received a minority scholarship in medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, where she graduated cum laude in 1975. Alexa, then went on to qualify as the first African American woman neurosurgeon in the United States!
It was working at Dr. Bloom’s (her college mentor) lab in genetics and attending a genetic counselling clinic that led to a love of medicine. In her work as a neurosurgeon, she saw young patients facing life-threatening illnesses, gunshot wounds, head trauma, hydrocephaly, and other brain injuries or diseases. Throughout her twenty-year career in paediatric neurosurgery, Dr. Canady helped thousands of younger patients aged 10 or younger.
Dr. Canady was chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan from 1987 until her retirement in June 2001. She holds two honorary degrees: a doctorate of humane letters from the University of Detroit-Mercy, awarded in 1997, and a Doctor of Science degree from the University of Southern Connecticut, awarded in 1999. She received the Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Teacher of the Year award in 1984 and was inducted into the Michigan Woman’s Hall of Fame in 1989. 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. In 2002, the Detroit News named Dr. Canady Michiganer of the Year.
It is important to note that her impressive achievements did not protect her from prejudice and discrimination. An example of this being during her first day of residency, at her surgical internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1975. Whilst she was tending to her patients, she heard one of the hospital’s top administrators say, “Oh, you must be our new equal-opportunity package.” Nevertheless, her outlook in life and work ethic triumphed over prejudice and just a few years later she was voted one of the top residents, whilst working as a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from 1981 to 1982.
Dr. Alexa Canady’s personal story speaks to us at the Sussex integrated care partnership to go for the opportunities we desire even if we feel inadequate or don’t really fit in. Yes, there most likely will be challenges, moments of self-doubt, setbacks and even institutional obstacles but unlocking the substantial potential within you will be worth it!
I encourage you to take a step towards your desires, dreams, goals this week because you will never know the greatness that is waiting for you unless you try.
Contributed by Gloria Ayuba, Programme Support Officer Population Health, Personalised Care and Prevention Programmes
During my research for Black History Month, I came across this fascinating story about one of the first BAME surgeons in the UK to write about the symptoms Sickle Cell Disease, thirty-six years before the recorded discovery of the disease in 1910.
Africanus Horton (born James Beale) was a true renaissance man who also a scientist, political writer, an officer in the British Army and later in life a banker. He came to Britain in 1855 where he studied medicine at King’s College London and Edinburgh University and took the name Africanus as a symbol of pride in his birthplace.
After getting his MD, Horton was commissioned back to West Africa as a surgeon in the British Army. During this time he developed theories that connected human health with topography (the study of anatomy based on regions of the body and the structures within that region). His theories led to a distinguished reputation within medical communities. In his book The Diseases of Tropical Climates and Their Treatment, published in 1874, Horton describes some of the clinical symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease.
Horton also published books such as The Political Economy of British West Africa as well as the very widely remembered Vindication of the African Race in1868. Horton challenged prevalent racist views and championed what he called “African Nationality” and campaigned for self-government and independence, a century before it occurred. Following his retirement, he continued to champion education within Africa as a way towards self-governance, providing scholarships and demanding that a medical school was established within the region.
I was so engrossed in this story I had to share it with you all. Please share this interesting story with your team and take the time to have a have a chat with your colleagues about how you think Africanus Horton has made an impact on British medicine and for the BAME community.
Contributed by Tanya Brown-Griffith, Programme Director, Population Health, Personalised Care and Prevention Programmes