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Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr.

Neurosurgeon, medical director, foundation executive and author Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. was born on September 18, 1951 in Detroit Michigan, to Sonya and Robert Solomon Carson. After the couple separated, Carson and his brother Curtis lived with their mother. Although she worked several jobs at a time, Sonya supported the family and played a tremendous role in shaping the lives of her sons. Upon seeing her sons’ poor performance in school, Sonya required them to read regularly and to present her with weekly book reports, although she herself only had a third grade education and had difficulty reading.

In 1969, Carson graduated with honors as the student “Most likely to succeed,” from Southwestern High School, a public school located in southwest Detroit, Michigan. During his early years, although Carson had improved his grades considerably, he had to overcome his temper. After an incident in which he almost stabbed a friend, Carson made up his mind to change his ways. Upon receiving his high school diploma, Carson attended Yale University, where he would meet his future wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin. After graduating from Yale University with his B.A. degree in psychology in 1973, he went on to the University of Michigan School of Medicine. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1977, Carson trained at Johns Hopkins University, where he completed his internship in general surgery and his residency in neurological surgery. In 1983, Carson traveled to Perth, Australia to serve as a senior registrar in neurosurgery at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. A year later, he returned to Johns Hopkins and by the following year was named Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. In 1987, through a ground-breaking surgical procedure, Carson successfully separated conjoined twins who were attached at the head.

Outside of his work as a world-renowned surgeon, Carson has been civically active. Using his own life story as a background, Carson has written four motivational books, which include: "Gifted Hands" in 1990, "The Big Picture" in 2000, "Think Big" in 2006, and "Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk" in 2007. The first of these works served as the inspiration for a film of the same title, in which Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the role of Carson. Carson has also created three foundations—the Carson Scholars Fund, the Ben Carson Reading Project, and Angels of the Operating Room. He serves on the board of directors of the Kellogg Company and CostCo Wholesale Corporation. In 2008, President George W. Bush presented Carson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.

Carson and his wife have three sons, Murray Nedlands, Benjamin Solomon, Jr. and Rhoeyce Harrington.

Dr. Benjamin Carson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 12, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.075

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/12/2010

Last Name

Carson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Solomon

Schools

Southwestern High School

Yale University

Michigan Medicine

Berea Seventh-Day Adventist Church

First Name

Benjamin

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

CAR22

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Favorite Quote

Trust In The Lord With All Your Heart And Lean Not On Your Own Understanding; In All Your Ways Submit To Him, And He Will Make Your Paths Straight.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

9/18/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetarian Chili

Short Description

Neurosurgeon and medical director Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. (1951 - ) was known for his groundbreaking work in neurosurgery, particularly for the operation he performed in 1987 to separate infant conjoined twins, who were attached at the head.

Employment

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Sir Charles Gardner Hospital

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:430,4:2950,68:3310,73:5650,130:9300,135:11680,190:14798,216:16286,226:20186,334:20928,342:23260,508:47854,751:50855,793:51235,798:53040,854:59250,955:59725,961:66166,1026:72356,1112:73869,1156:81811,1285:86420,1316:86784,1321:94262,1405:107868,1630:108336,1639:119972,1785:120574,1794:135611,1967:136348,1981:138023,2015:138626,2025:149154,2191:152595,2246:153153,2253:153525,2311:159820,2369:169538,2504:171042,2527:174708,2626:179881,2660:189463,2829:198595,2909:200635,2964:218285,3151:225420,3286:226780,3312:253500,3795$0,0:4554,87:5940,110:13264,239:14841,331:37760,623:43238,799:43985,810:48287,829:49379,843:50107,852:52150,864:52690,871:53230,878:67734,1082:78515,1200:80120,1218:80670,1233:80890,1238:81110,1243:87294,1275:89121,1304:91383,1347:96676,1388:96972,1393:110894,1537:111468,1568:115158,1605:116306,1639:117372,1743:125210,1834:145180,2082:161372,2275:168452,2408:175048,2482:212770,2888:213520,2992:222470,3110:236097,3253:238305,3361:251385,3522:256621,3714:261160,3758:261628,3765:262954,3791:276940,3944:277275,3950:279084,3992:279553,4000:281700,4016:291430,4170:297340,4257
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his mother's early family life

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his education in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. recalls the effects of his parents' separation

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his educational experiences in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remembers his mother's emphasis on reading

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes the impact of reading on his education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his temper

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. recalls joining the Reserve Officers' Training Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remember his response to racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his decision to apply to Yale University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. recalls his brother's influence

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remember his transition to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his transition from psychology to neuroscience

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remembers the psychology faculty at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his relationship with his brother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. recalls his social activities at Yale University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his relationship with his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his struggles at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his strategy for success in education

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remembers his surgical residency

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remembers Vivien Thomas

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. describes his experiences of discrimination at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his religious motivations

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. remembers his first surgical operation

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. recalls joining the Reserve Officers' Training Corps
Dr. Benjamin Carson, Sr. talks about his relationship with his wife
Transcript
Now this is all taking place during your, I guess, the mid-years of high school as you're, you really now have, you feel like you have control of things?$$Right.$$I guess, when you're about fifteen, you know?$$Yeah, fourteen, fifteen, and then, you know, I joined the ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps]. And, you know, that was another major influence in my life. You know, I got teased a lot because of my clothes. Clothes were a big deal in Detroit [Michigan]. You had to have your sharkskins and your silks, and all of this stuff and--$$You know, (unclear)--$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) silk and wool.$$Yeah, and, you know, we didn't have money for that, so I got teased a lot. And one day I saw a guy in an ROTC uniform, had three diamonds on his shoulder. He was a full colonel, the highest rank you could obtain--had all the ribbons and metals, and I was just blown away. I said, "Wow, that's cooler than any of these things these guys wear." I said, "I think I'm going to join the ROTC." And, unfortunately, you know, I joined in the last half of the tenth grade, instead of the first half. You're supposed to join in the first half, so you have six full semesters, but at least I was in, even though I joined late. But by that time, you know, I was into my reading phase, into my high aspiration phase, so anything that I did, you know, I just felt, you know, I had to reach the top. And so, I wanted to be a full colonel, even though I joined late, and no one had ever done that. And I made it to full colonel after only four semesters, but I resolved that that was my goal. I was going to become a full colonel somehow. And, you know, I studied all the manuals. I knew all the military strategies, the map reading, the guns, everything. And after my first semester, I got promoted to sergeant. And the fellow who was in charge of ROTC, you know, he knew I was very ambitious. So, he said, "You know what, if I put you in charge of the second hour class, and you can do something with it, I'll promote you to second lieutenant." And that would have been a big jump because that would have allowed me to sit for the field grade exam. Well, that second hour class, they were just horrendous. And the reason that they ran everybody out, you know, they were violent, they were just unruly, and, but I discovered very quickly that they had a great affinity for guns and knives. And, so I said, "I bet we can use this to our advantage," and I got them involved with disassembling and reassembling rifles. I said, "I bet you guys can become the fastest people in the city who can do this." And then, with drills and with fancy drills, and all kinds of stuff, and long story short, they became the premiere unit in the school. And so, I got promoted to second lieutenant after only my second semester. And that allowed me to sit for the field grade exam which you have to be at least a second lieutenant. You can be a first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel. And I got the highest score in the city, so I got promoted to lieutenant colonel. And I still had another semester. And I did the same thing the next year, and I got promoted to full colonel, and became the city executive officer for the City of Detroit.$$Now, you were at Southwestern High School [Detroit, Michigan]?$$(Nods head).$$Okay.$$So, you know, I got to go to Congressional Medal of Honor dinners, and to lead the front of the Memorial Day parade. And I met General Westmoreland [William Westmoreland], who is charge of the [U.S.] Army at that time--all kinds of stuff. I was offered a full scholarship to West Point [United States Military Academy, West Point, New York]. But then, I decided, it's not really what I want to do. I really wanted to be a doctor.$Your degree was in psy- psychology, right?$$Yes.$$All right. And that's a jumping off point to going to be a psychiatrist, right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$And you were just explaining to us how you--well, how did you choose Michigan [University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan]?$$Well, because I was from Michigan.$$Okay.$$And so, I would get in state tuition, plus there were a lot of grants available, particularly for minorities. And so, it was a very, plus it was one of the ten top medical schools, so I said, "Boy, you can't beat that with a stick."$$Okay. Now, oh, now, you met your wife at Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut]?$$That is correct.$$Right, okay. So, tell us about that. Now, when did you all meet?$$Well, you know, we met actually before she went to Yale, at a reception for incoming students in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan (laughter). And I was an upperclassman, so I was invited, and I was coming to, to meet the new people who were coming, so we could tell something about what it was like, and that was the first time we ever met. But it wasn't until a couple of years later that we actually, you know, hooked up because it turns out that we both wanted to come back home for Thanksgiving. And the recruitment office would pay your way back home if you would visit some schools while you were home. And so, we went together on Yale's dime and, you know, we were going on, eating and having a good time, and we discovered we kind of liked each other. So, you know, Yale was responsible for that (laughter).$$Okay. Now, I read some place that you all, that you were doing a lot of driving, and almost ran into something or--$$Yeah. Well, on the way back from that recruitment trip, you know, we had both probably stayed up later than we should've, and we needed to get the car back to New Haven [Connecticut]. It was a rented car. And so, you know, we were just going, you know, drive straight through. And it was about Youngstown, Ohio that I fell asleep at the wheel--she was already asleep--going ninety miles an hour. And I was awakened by the vibrations, as the car was going off the road, and heading off into a ravine. And, you know, I woke up, and I grabbed the wheel, and I started turning it. And, you know, the car started spinning, just spinning around and around. And they say, you see your life flash before your eyes before you die--that's exactly what happened. All these scenes from my life, and I said, "I'm going to die." And the next thing I knew, the car was stopped, and on the, on the lane next to the shoulder. And just in time for me to pull off before an eighteen wheeler came barreling through. And Candy [Candy Carson] woke up--she said, "What happened?" I said, "Go back to sleep" (laughter). She said, "No, no, no, what happened?" And I told her what happened, and then we just, we said, "The Lord spared our lives. He's got something for us to do." And that was our first kiss, and that's when we started going together.$$That's quite a story.$$Yeah.$$Now--$$And that was the 28th of November 1972, so, we always celebrate the 28th of each month. We call it our monthaversary (laughter).$$Okay.$$So, that was the day that our lives were spared.$$Now, your wife is a musician, right?$$Correct (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) She was a music and psychology major.$$Right. And she was premed, too.$$Okay. She plays the violin?$$Yes.$$Okay, all right. Now, she threatened to play for us while we were doing the interviews--$$(Laughter).$$--while I remember. And your sons play, too, I understand (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes, they all play instruments and, you know, as they were growing up. Along with my wife, they had a string quartet called the Carson Four, and they were really quite, quite talented. And they got to play in places, like Las Vegas [Nevada] and Puerto Rico, and a lot of places.$$Okay. Well, when you go to the University of Michigan Medical School, you are married by then, right, or are you?$$No.$$No, okay.$$No, 'cause I was a couple of years ahead of Candy.$$Okay.$$So, I went there, and then we got married when she graduated from Yale.$$Okay.$$So we got married halfway through medical school.

Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis

Dr. Alexa Irene Canady-Davis was the first African American woman in the United States to become a neurosurgeon. Canady-Davis was born to Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr., a dentist, on November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. After graduating from Lansing High School in 1967, Canady-Davis received her B.S. degree from the University of Michigan in 1971 and her M.D. degree (cum laude) from the College of Medicine at the University of Michigan in 1975. Between 1975 and 1976, Canady-Davis completed an internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She next trained as a resident in neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota between 1976 and 1981.

After a fellowship in pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia between 1981 and 1982, Canady-Davis returned home to Michigan and joined the Neurosurgery Department at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. In 1983, she was hired at Children’s Hospital of Michigan where she later became Chief of Neurosurgery in 1987. Before that, Canady-Davis was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery in 1984. In 1985, she began teaching at Wayne State University School of Medicine as a Clinical Instructor of Neurosurgery. In 1997, she was elevated to Professor of Neurosurgery at Wayne’s School of Medicine. In 1988, she married George Davis, a U.S. Navy recruiter. From 1987 to 2001, Canady-Davis was Chief of Neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Her areas of expertise are cranio-facial abnormalities, hydrocephalus, tumors of the brain, and congenital spine abnormalities.

Upon retirement from the position of Chief of Neurosurgery in 2001, Canady-Davis moved to Pensacola, Florida with her husband, also retired—a city that he had lived in during part of his career in the Navy. But, after several years of retirement, Canady-Davis was lured back to surgery as a consultant and to a part-time surgical practice at the Sacred Heart Medical Group Hospital.

Canady-Davis has received numerous professional recognitions, including being named Woman of the Year by the American Women’s Medical Association in 1993, as well as being inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She mentors young people by speaking at high schools in the Pensacola area, hoping that her accomplishments are helping to inspire the dreams of younger generations.

Canady-Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers October 16, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.120

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/16/2006

Last Name

Canady-Davis

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Everett High School

Dwight Rich Middle School

West Junior High School

Lewton School

University of Michigan

First Name

Alexa

Birth City, State, Country

Lansing

HM ID

CAN03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Quote

It Is About The Work.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

11/7/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Pensacola

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lamb (Leg)

Short Description

Neurosurgeon Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis (1950 - ) was the first African American female neurosurgeon in the United States.

Employment

Yale New Haven Hospital

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Henry Ford Hospital

Children's Hospital of Michigan

Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola

University of Minnesota

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:4620,152:4950,158:9504,337:12672,434:14322,470:14784,478:15378,489:23574,544:26978,611:29420,666:32676,721:33342,731:34896,779:35266,786:35784,794:40377,825:41597,852:41963,860:42268,866:42573,872:51674,983:52106,991:52682,1000:53114,1008:55868,1035:60296,1078:63080,1131:69270,1250:69690,1255:70215,1263:70635,1268:73646,1295:78166,1353:79412,1375:82770,1411:83370,1425:83790,1433:90934,1553:91299,1559:103015,1680:108922,1735:115438,1805:115742,1810:119314,1868:119770,1875:136774,2171:137239,2177:137797,2184:146492,2373:147972,2405:152866,2458:153746,2470:158058,2557:161605,2592:161930,2598:162320,2605:162645,2611:163295,2624:164530,2663:165115,2673:165570,2690:166155,2700:166675,2710:167130,2719:172500,2775$0,0:602,135:4214,225:5074,236:16367,366:16715,371:21587,524:25949,595:26314,601:27044,613:27482,620:34271,758:35877,794:36169,799:36534,805:36826,810:38286,841:40476,894:45350,914:47495,952:47950,961:49185,981:50030,996:50550,1006:51200,1017:52110,1040:59239,1154:60274,1173:65866,1233:66433,1241:67162,1251:69430,1315:70240,1325:70564,1330:73885,1375:74452,1384:75262,1396:82580,1454:84320,1492:85040,1507:85460,1516:85700,1521:86180,1530:88469,1544:91353,1566:91963,1577:92878,1600:93122,1605:93488,1613:96708,1635:97152,1642:97596,1654:98188,1673:98558,1679:98854,1684:102480,1779:103146,1790:103590,1797:104404,1819:104700,1856:105218,1890:115641,2031:116371,2041:116663,2046:117101,2054:118050,2072:123900,2136:130378,2244:130854,2253:131194,2259:133710,2337:133982,2342:137472,2374:145186,2435:145558,2440:146302,2517:151278,2594:151846,2603:165258,2722:167988,2781:169444,2805:170354,2816:170991,2824:172714,2908:173102,2913:174266,2933:175139,2943:189147,3120:195840,3306:198255,3352:200325,3408:207946,3522:217346,3721:217922,3744:218946,3762:219586,3774:220418,3795:222402,3826:222850,3835:227138,3978:228802,4002:229378,4014:229826,4020:230274,4029:230530,4034:231170,4048:233922,4113:244262,4162:245147,4207:245678,4219:246445,4244:247979,4280:250200,4299
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her mother's career and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her father's career and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her elementary school experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her neighborhood in Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her experiences at Lansing's Lewton School

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her academic interests during her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her family life as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her high school experiences in Lansing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her extracurricular activities as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her experiences at the University of Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes medical school at the University of Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis recalls her internship at Yale New Haven Hospital

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis recalls the start of her career in neurosurgery

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis talks about specializing in pediatric neurosurgery

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis recalls her tenure at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis recalls beginning her surgery career in Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her tenure at Children's Hospital of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her husband, George Davis

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis talks about retiring from Children's Hospital of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her professional activities in neurosurgery, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her professional activities in neurosurgery, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her work mentoring teenagers and doctors

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis talks about the African American medical community

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her life in Pensacola, Florida

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis reflects upon her career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis recalls the start of her career in neurosurgery
Dr. Alexa Canady-Davis describes her tenure at Children's Hospital of Michigan
Transcript
So you're off to the University of Minnesota [University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota] to do your specialty.$$Right.$$Tell me about those years--$$It was fun (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) and what--$$--being back--$$--what did--$$--in the Midwest. I didn't realize how much of a Midwesterner I was until I came back from the East Coast. I'd always thought I was gonna live on the East Coast, but I love the Midwest better, it's my style. So, walking across the campus I knew, I felt at home right away.$$So what did that training involve? What did you do year by year, what kind of things were you, did you have to work at?$$You have to learn how to recognize sick people, and then how to do something about it, and then how to operate on them. So, it's a gradual process. It's a pretty brutal schedule, in those days we used to start every morning at six and you were on call all night every third night and you had to come on Saturday and you had to come on Thursday twice a month for a conference and then, what else? You got home about eight o'clock on the nights you were off, so you didn't do much other than neurosurgery.$$This is all training now?$$Right.$$--this is all training and that was how many years?$$Five years.$$Five years?$$Um-hm.$$How do you remember your very first surgery?$$First surgery I did by myself.$$Yeah?$$I was scared. I was totally scared. You know, and you realize that, it's like you and there's nobody standing behind you.$$What was the operation? What was the condition?$$It was a young girl who was living with an older man and who tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head.$$Um-hm.$$Very sad story.$$Um-hm. Did she live?$$Yes, she did.$$What was your next major surgery that you did alone, do you recall?$$The other most impressive one for me that I did alone, or you know, with people watching but not helping, was when I was a fellow, at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. And I did an arteriovenous malformation, it took us about twenty hours.$$Okay, would you repeat that again? It was a?$$And arteriovenous malformation in young boy, that took about twenty hours.$$How old was the young man?$$He was like twelve.$$Um-hm. And it was a twenty-hour (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$--operation?$$Right. And Luis Schut, my mentor, was like walking nervously in the halls, tried to keep his hands out.$$Um-hm. So each one of these early surgeries and I guess maybe all of them were very stressful? Are they not straining?$$They are I think, but, it--if, you can't really think about it too much, if you do then you need to go do something else. It has to somewhere along the process, become your everyday job. Otherwise, you don't survive.$So in 1987 I believe approximately, you went to the Children's Hospital of Michigan [Detroit, Michigan]?$$Nineteen eighty-two [1982].$$Nineteen eighty-two [1982], I'm sorry.$$Right.$$Okay.$$Actually '83 [1983], I went to the Children's Hospital, I went to Henry Ford [Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan] in '82 [1982].$$Okay, all right. Well tell me about that long tenure, you were there for, until 2001?$$Right. I loved it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Tell me about--$$I absolutely loved--$$--that tenure.$$--the hospital.$$Okay.$$I still love the hospital.$$Yeah.$$It was a hospital whose mission was taking care of anybody who was sick and they meant it. And one of the joys of a pediatric hospital is you get pediatric types and by and large, everybody who does pediatrics makes less money than they would doing adults of the same type. So, that's selects for a certain kind of person, which makes wonderful companions to practice with over the years. I mean, the people who are there are interested primarily in doing the right thing and it, an environment like the Children's Hospital of Michigan, where the commitment is to doing the right thing. It's just a joyous place to work.$$Um-hm. You're quoted here in another interview that you did, I don't remember the place or the time. But, you said that your profession, your specialty allows you to get into the interior of people.$$Right.$$What did you mean by that?$$Well, by and large, what I do is involved with the most traumatic thing in most people's lives, and so that lets you in, and because of pediatrics, we tend to take care of people over time, you become part of the family, you get to watch them grow up, you get, you know them intimately. You know, if you take care of someone for ten, or fifteen or twenty years, you know them, they know you, it's a relationship.$$Tell me about one of the families that you currently are still engaged with, because of what you've just told me? Are there any families that you still?$$I had a mother just called me last week to tell that her son died, who I took care of from the time he was a baby. He had a seizure, and had a problem from the seizure, and was found dead really. But I thought it--I was very moved that she would call me after all these years, I mean I haven't been in Detroit [Michigan] in five years now, and, and know that I would want to know.$$Um-hm.$$And, so I--$$Tell me more about this place that you--$$The Children's Hospital (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) that you love so much?$$--of Michigan?$$Yeah.$$It's a children's hospital in downtown Detroit, it's a good-sized hospital, it's about, it's about a 250-bed hospital, somewhere, 225, 250-bed hospital, it's part of the Detroit Medical Center [Detroit, Michigan] and part of the Wayne State University medical school [Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan]. And it is a full service, it has all pediatric specialties, pediatric cardiac, pediatric orthopedics, pediatric neurology. It has a large intensive care unit, probably thirty beds.$$Um-hm. Now, you moved up in, quote, the ranks, at this hospital?$$I did.$$Tell me about the progression of your moving up into (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) My progression was pretty abrupt actually. I was there for a few years and my senior partner left and I became chief.$$You became the chief?$$Yeah, so I was the chief beginning about when I was thirty-five, give or take a little.$$Um-hm.$$So I was chief for most of the time I was there.$$Um-hm. Now what new responsibilities did you have as the chief?$$Well I think, you have the administrative responsibilities, which in a small department aren't huge, but you have to set the tone, you, I mean your responsibility is setting the tone and picking the people to match your vision of what you want your department to be. I wanted my department to be very patient-centered department, where things were easy for the patients, where the patients felt they were part of the team, where we gave them a lot of information and let them participate in the decision making in a meaningful way, and that I think we succeeded in that.$$Now--$$At my retirement, the families came to the conference.$$Oh wow.$$So that was very much in keeping with, with my philosophy.

Dr. Keith L. Black

World-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 13, 1957. The younger of two sons born to Robert and Lillian Black, he developed at an early age a passion for science. His parents, noting his interests, encouraged him, and when he was in the third grade, his father brought home a cow’s heart for him to dissect. While in eighth grade, the Black family moved to Ohio, and Black began spending time at the labs at Case Western University. In the tenth grade, young Black had developed enough surgical proficiency to perform his first organ transplant, conducted on a dog, and at seventeen, he wrote his first scientific paper on the damage artificial heart valves can do to red blood cells.

After high school, Black enrolled at the University of Michigan, and after only two years of undergraduate study, he was accepted into medical school in 1978. Black earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1981, where he had begun his intense research into the brain and the nature of human consciousness. This search led him down a spiritual path, where he began to study the religions of the world, and ultimately led him to working to cure brain tumors.

By 1987, Black was the head of the Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program at the UCLA Medical Center, where he remained for the next ten years. In 1997, he became the director of the division of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he remains today, and in 1998, he became the chairman of the department of neurological surgery as well as a professor at the University of California-Irvine. Over the years, his work has found him publishing hundreds of papers over the years, and he discovered a natural body peptide that helps deliver drugs to the brain to fight tumors.

Black has been instrumental in helping to raise money to fight cancer, and his push has been joined by many notables in Hollywood. Black’s crusade against cancer, and his exceptional skill with the scalpel, have led to numerous honors for him, as well, including appearing on the cover of Time Magazine and Newsweek International. Esquire Magazine named him one of the “21 Most Important People of the 21st Century,” and in 2001, he was presented with an Essence Award.

Black is also a devoted family man, despite performing 250 to 300 operations a year (the national average for brain surgeons is around 100). He reserves his weekends for spending time with his wife, fellow doctor Carol Bennett, and their children, Keith and Teal.

Accession Number

A2004.045

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/21/2004

Last Name

Black

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Boykin Street Elementary School

Moreland Elementary School

Byron Junior High School

University of Michigan

Shaker Heights High School

Shaker Heights Middle School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Keith

Birth City, State, Country

Tuskegee

HM ID

BLA05

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Walgreens

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

9/13/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Neurosurgeon Dr. Keith L. Black (1957 - ) is a medical prodigy. In the tenth grade, young Black performed his first organ transplant, conducted on a dog, and at seventeen, he wrote his first scientific paper on the damage artificial heart valves can do to red blood cells. He has been head of the brain tumor program at UCLA, and is now the Director of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and head of the neurosurgery department at UC Irvine.

Employment

University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Black

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Keith Black interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Keith Black's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Keith Black describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Keith Black describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Keith Black describes his brother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Keith Black recalls his childhood environs

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Keith Black describes his early affinity for science

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Keith Black discusses recalls holidays with his family

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Keith Black describes social life in Auburn, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Keith Black recalls his unique school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Keith Black discusses his early influences

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Keith Black discusses his father's occupational travels

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Keith Black discusses his early academic interests

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Keith Black describes his father's race politics

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Keith Black shares stories of his idol, his older brother

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Keith Black recalls his family's changes of residence

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Keith Black remembers school life in Shaker Heights, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Keith Black discusses his early religious involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Keith Black discusses his early scientific research

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Keith Black explains his interest in the biological sciences

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Keith Black discusses his decision to attend the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Keith Black describes his experiences in a six-year joint degree program, part I

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Keith Black discusses his premed/medical school curriculum

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Keith Black describes his experiences in a six-year joint degree program, part II

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Keith Black evaluates physician training at the University of Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Keith Black evaluates six-year premed/medical school programs

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Keith Black remembers his medical school mentor

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Keith Black recalls arriving at a medical specialization, neuroscience

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Photo - Keith Black and Bill Cosby at a dinner at Bill Cosby's home, Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Photo - Keith Black with Sidney Poitier and Quincy Jones at Quincy Jones's birthday celebration, California, 2003

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Photo - Keith Black flies with his daughter, Los Angeles, California, ca. 2003

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Photo - Keith Black and Oprah Winfrey at Pauletta and Denzel Washington's home, California, 2002

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Photo - Keith Black and Sidney Poitier at a black tie event, ca. 2000

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Keith Black explains his interest in consciousness

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Keith Black discusses his research on the human brain

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Keith Black describes his passion for life

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Keith Black discusses his research on strokes

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Keith Black lists his internship options following medical school

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Keith Black discusses his early career at the University of Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Keith Black describes his beginnings as faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Keith Black discusses his marriage to a fellow doctor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Keith Black explains current research on brain tumors

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Keith Black talks about commonalities in brain tumor patients

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Keith Black explains his reasoning for pursuing research on brain tumors

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Keith Black details his experience at UCLA Medical Center

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Keith Black discusses a brain tumor treatment technique that he's pioneered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Keith Black explains his future plans

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Keith Black talks about a spiritual element to medicine

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Keith Black talks about his hobbies and interests

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Keith Black discusses his family's reaction to his successes

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Keith Black considers his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Keith Black, ca. 2002

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Keith Black junior high school photograph, 1969

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Keith Black with his brother and mother, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Keith Black, Los Angeles, California, ca. 1992-1994

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Keith Black elementary school photo, Auburn, Alabama, 1966

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Keith Black with his brother, father and mother, Auburn, Alabama, ca. 1967

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Keith Black with his daughter and wife at Essence Awards ceremony, New York, New York, 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Keith Black's son and daughter, 2002

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Keith Black's son and daughter, ca. 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Keith Black and unidentified man, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, ca. 1990

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Keith Black with unidentified man, Kenya, 1990

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Keith Black and Nelson Mandela, ca. 2001

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Neurosphere and neurocells from Keith Black's research, 2003

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Red blood cell transformation from Keith Black's research, not dated

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Keith Black on the cover of 'Turning Point' magazine, 1999