Hailing from Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Alexa Canady is the first African American woman in the United States to become a neurosurgeon. Dr. Canady went on to receive her Bachelor of Science from the University of Michigan, as well as her medical doctorate. She also graduated cum laude in medical school. Dr. Canady did her internship at Yale New Haven Hospital and went on to train in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota.
Canady, spoke with rolling out about overcoming obstacles in her path of the way to establishing her impressive career.
It was kind of a surprise. And it was great. I mean, it’s always nice for people to recognize your work. A few years later, my mother was also inducted for her work. We’re the only mother-daughter pair in the Women’s Hall of Fame.
How did you deal with the challenges as an African American woman in this field?
Well, I think the first thing is that you have to believe that you can do it. I think the first thing is that you have to recognize that the people around you may not be supportive of your goal. I try to tell students that the world that you live in, is a different world than the one your parents lived in. And so what’s possible for you may be different than what’s possible for them, and we have to recognize that change.
What do you do in your downtime?
I read the newspapers every morning. That’s my start. I read four newspapers every morning. And that’s kind of my quiet private time.
When you see a parent-child dynamic, what are your observations about the relationship between that mother or parent and child?
You have parents who are just good. And you can recognize that right away, you will have other parents who let their anxiety overtake them. You know, I saw a lot of seriously ill children. The concerns of a dying child are very different than their parents. They’re thinking, can I go back to school next week? Not am I going to be alive in a month? And you need to understand what people are concerned about and listen to it, and respond to that and the anxiety.
How did you overcome obstacles?
Well, I think you have to always sit and go through it in your head, not obsess over it. Sometimes you can identify something in the process. It wasn’t right, the communication wasn’t right. The choice you made … to pass was the wrong one. And you can just try to hone your skills so that the next time you do it better, and then you have to put it away. You have to put it away. If you obsess on it, then you’re not doing anybody any good.
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