The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Lloyd N. Ferguson

Chemist and chemistry professor Lloyd Noel Ferguson was born on February 9, 1918 in Oakland, California to Noel Ferguson, a businessman, and Gwendolyn Ferguson, a house maid. Ferguson’s interest in chemistry began when he was a child. He built a shed in his backyard so that he could conduct experiments away from his house. Ferguson skipped two grades, and although an illness kept him out of school for a year, he was able to graduate from Oakland Tech High School in 1934, when he was just sixteen. After high school, Ferguson worked with the Works Progress Administration and soon thereafter, the Southern Pacific Railway Company as a porter to save money to attend college. In 1936, Ferguson became the first in his family to attend college, and he earned his B.S. degree with honors in chemistry from University of California, Berkeley in 1940. Ferguson then earned his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from University of California, Berkeley in 1943, making him the first African American to do so. While at Berkeley, Ferguson worked with Dr. Melvin Calvin on a national defense project, the purpose of which was to find a material that would release oxygen for use in a submarine if it was ever needed.

In 1945, after working at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Ferguson received an offer to join the faculty of Howard University in Washington D.C. He became a full professor of chemistry at Howard University in 1955, and in 1958 Ferguson became the head of the chemistry department. During his tenure, Ferguson was instrumental in building the first doctoral program in chemistry at any historically black college or university. In 1952 he was elected to the prestigious American Chemical Society. In 1965, Ferguson joined the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles, where he chaired the department of chemistry from 1968 to 1971. Throughout his academic career, Ferguson pursued many scientific interests including: the chemistry of carbon-based molecules, the organic nature of taste sensations, and cancer-causing agents. Ferguson received the California State University CSU Outstanding Professor Award in 1974 and in 1981. In 1976 Ferguson received the Distinguished American Medallion from the American Foundation for Negro Affairs. Ferguson was the only African American to receive an ACS award in chemical education in 1978. He has published seven textbooks and has written over fifty journal articles. He has also helped to develop programs such as Support of the Educationally and Economically Disadvantaged and the Minority Biomedical Research Program that encourage young minority students wishing to pursue higher education and careers in science. In 1972, Ferguson co-founded the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He retired from California State University in Los Angeles in 1986.

Ferguson has a scholarship named after him at the California State University, Los Angeles. He received an honorary Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Howard University. Ferguson is married to Charlotte Welch, and they have raised three adult children, Lloyd, Jr., Stephen, and Lisa.

Lloyd N. Ferguson was interviewed by the HistoryMakerson April 25, 2011.

Lloyd N. Ferguson passed away on November 30, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/25/2011 |and| 4/27/2011

Last Name

Ferguson

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

N.

Schools

University of California, Berkeley

Herbert Hoover Junior High School

Oakland Technical High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lloyd

Birth City, State, Country

Oakland

HM ID

FER02

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

2/9/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

11/30/2011

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Lloyd N. Ferguson (1918 - 2011 ) was instrumental in building the doctoral program in chemistry at Howard University, the first of its kind at any historically black college or university. He joined the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles in 1965 and co-founded the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

Employment

Howard University

California State University, Los Angeles

Works Progress Administration

Southern Pacific Railroad

North Carolina A&T State University

Carlsberg Laboratorium

University of Nairobi

Bennett College

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:228,5:684,13:988,18:2736,43:3040,48:5624,83:6308,94:30949,313:32679,333:33081,340:33885,355:34488,365:36654,385:36970,390:37523,401:50288,590:50834,599:53977,613:56347,656:62385,715:71840,816:85820,933:86814,949:87098,954:87737,966:88021,971:94680,1042:95562,1052:95954,1057:99440,1091:99900,1097:100636,1125:101740,1148:102200,1154:102568,1159:103580,1175:103948,1180:112488,1255:113793,1275:114141,1280:114663,1323:115098,1329:116490,1353:118926,1393:123583,1407:127850,1434:128410,1440:130660,1450:136925,1529:137605,1538:138370,1550:140240,1589:146604,1634:146920,1639:147473,1647:148737,1675:152450,1733:158646,1777:159595,1792:164600,1837:170578,1954:175999,2012:176482,2021:179410,2045:179866,2057:180398,2068:181082,2085:182222,2104:182678,2112:183210,2120:183590,2126:184122,2138:188760,2154:189930,2168:190380,2174:191010,2186:191730,2201:193380,2219$0,0:1460,38:2117,46:2701,63:2993,68:7064,130:21344,251:21616,256:22704,278:22976,283:23656,293:25016,326:25492,338:25764,343:27124,370:42369,573:75092,944:75848,954:97028,1126:97754,1141:98018,1146:99570,1153:106676,1229:111580,1292:113385,1327:116956,1342:121580,1435:121852,1440:123688,1487:124776,1508:138010,1606:152601,1759:153294,1768:153690,1773:156759,1803:157254,1809:161594,1832:162506,1848:163114,1861:166978,1898:167959,1917:183701,2087:184017,2092:198790,2313
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lloyd Ferguson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his mother and father's family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his father coming to California from Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about how his parents met in California

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about living near his grandparents as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in sports

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about selling cleaning products that he made in his backyard laboratory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lloyd Ferguson explains how the depression affected his family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his experience at Oakland Technical High School, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his experience at Oakland Technical High School, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about growing up and the influence of church

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in becoming a scientist

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about having fun despite the Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his job after high school at the Southern Pacific Railroad

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about going to the University of California, Berkeley for college

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working as a red cap while attending school at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his classes and professors at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his submarine project at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working in the radiation laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working with Melvin Calvin in the University of California, Berkeley radiation laboratory

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson describes his research advisor at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls meeting his wife and teaching at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls notable people at Howard University, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his work in the chemistry department at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls notable people at Howard University, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about chemistry textbooks

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about doing research in organic chemistry at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about the textbooks that he wrote

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his research on the taste and color of organic compounds at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls other African Americans at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls his first textbook and his sabbatical in Copenhagen

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson describes the difference in resources between the University of California, Berkeley and Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his sabbatical in Zurich and working with Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Prelog

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about joining the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in golf

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson responds to questions about his involvement with the FDA and Project SEED

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his 1971 sabbatical to Nairobi, Kenya

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson remembers talks about MBRS and NOBCChE

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls his awards and accolades

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his life's accomplishments and shares his hopes for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his wife, children, and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls working with Melvin Calvin

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about starting the graduate chemistry program at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson shares his memories of Sam Ashley, Percy Julian, and Herman Branson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson remembers playing bridge at California State University, Los Angeles

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson responds to questions about his research

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson has trouble remembering his fellow colleagues at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his wife and his personal life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his teaching and his textbooks

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early interest in science

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his career after leaving the University of California, Berkeley

DASession

1$2

DATape

1$6

DAStory

12$10

DATitle
Lloyd Ferguson explains how the depression affected his family
Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early interest in science
Transcript
Well tell us what happened, I guess, cause your family experienced an economic hit during the Depression [The Great Depression, 1930s], right?$$Yeah.$$Well, tell us what happened?$$Well, of course, I was little, didn't pay much attention, but my father [Noel Swithin Ferguson] lost his job, yes. And he couldn't afford, he couldn't afford keeping up the apartment building. The rent that came in, I mean a lot of the, a lot of people lost their jobs and they couldn't pay their rent and so forth, and he couldn't maintain the apartment building. And so he wanted to get rid of it and he tried to burn it. And that wasn't successful, so he had to go to jail for that, for arson, for a year or something.$$He was desperate trying to collect the insurance money?$$Yes, and get rid of it. I don't remember how many units it had. It was a big building there. But that's the only thing I remember at that time.$$That must have been devastating for your family, for your father to go to jail?$$Yes, right. I guess that's where he was when I graduated from college, I believe, yeah. He was still there when I graduated from college [1940]. So he spent some time.$$That's a long time to spend, it seems to me, a long time to spend for the crime.$$Yeah.$$Well, okay. So was your mother [Gwendolyn Louise Johnson Ferguson] still working?$$Yeah, she was working. As I say, she was an elevator operator, and sometimes she'd go out and serve meals for people who wanted a waitress, and you know, served meals.$$Okay, almost like a catering business or like a--$$Well, she didn't provide the food. She'd just come in and cook or not so much cooking even, just preparing it and serving it, making extra.$$Okay, she was part of the wait staff of catering?$$Yes.$$Okay. So did you participate in that too?$$No.$$So you had to live with your grandparents [maternal grandparents] after that?$$I spent, yeah, I lived with my grandparents. I'd sleep over their house too. We, they wasn't very far apart so I'm running back and forth and so forth, but most of the time I was spending with my grandparents. And then my cousins would come in and visit and other grandchildren would come in and visit and we'd play and so forth.$Were there any subjects you didn't do well in when you were in high school [Oakland Technical High School]?$$Well, I don't know. None that, maybe when I found out I wasn't gonna do well, maybe I got out of it. I don't remember.$$(Laughter). So the high school, did you go to high school in Oakland [California]?$$Yes. The teacher was very encouraging.$$You had good chemistry teachers?$$Yes.$$And so they encouraged you to go to Berkley [University of California, Berkeley]?$$I think so, probably so.$$Were you able to do lab work in the--$$high school?$$--in the high school? Did they have any labs?$$Yes, do some labs, and that's when I built a lab in the backyard and--$$Oh, you did. Did you blow up anything?$$Oh, once in a while I'd have an explosion and get a lot of fun out of it.$$(Laughter). Did you ever get in trouble with your parents?$$No, not with my parents and so forth. Sometimes teachers, the school didn't want me to fool with explosives, and that's where the fun was.$$(Laughter) How did you get interested in explosives and chemistry?$$Oh, I don't know, by a school teacher who was, let's see. I guess it was a high school teacher encouraged me to do experiments, and I learned about explosives and colors and so forth. And I just built a little lab out in the backyard and worked and played out there with the chemicals.$$By yourself or you had--$$Yeah.$$And so you were reading the books? This was in high school--$$Yes, right.$$--so you would read and figure out how to do some experiments and things?$$Yes, and explore a little bit.$$(Laughter). It was always fun.$$So that was, when you were in high school, was it close to being a senior or were you graduating or?$$No, let's see, it was probably junior and senior high years in high school, and I'd have fun with these chemicals. So I built this lab in the backyard and work out there.$$Where'd you get the chemicals? Do you remember?$$Oh, just buy them at stores.$$Oh, I see.$$Some drugstores or some--$$So you just used things that you could buy and then--$$Yes, oh, yes.$$And do you remember what made you apply to Berkley [University of California, Berkeley]?$$To do what?$$To, why did you want to go to school at Berkley?$$I don't know. It just seemed to be the only place to go.$$It was right there in town, huh?$$

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.