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by Farida Dawkins, at 12:17 pm, March 08, 2018, Women

The U.S. just got its first black woman professor of neurosurgery in 2018?

Dr Odette Harris -- Photo: Stanford Med/ Twitter

Stanford University in California just announced the promotion of neurosurgeon Dr Odette Harris to Professor of Neurosurgery, making her the first African-American female Professor of Neurosurgery in the United States.

Stanford’s Department of Neurosurgery announced her promotion on Wednesday in a tweet that received thousands of likes, retweets and congratulatory replies. Others expressed surprise that the glass ceiling for black women in neurosurgery was only broken in 2018.

The CEO and founder of the Cancer Education and Research Institute (CERI) Dr Aygün Şahin tweeted saying: “How wonderful, congratulations!! Still sad though that we are celebrating in the 21st century, in the year 2018, the FIRST EVER African-American female Professor of #Neurosurgery in the country! Looking forward to many more!”

Others shared similar sentiments including Twitter user Talia Caldwell who said: “Wait wait wait wait wait wait
I thought they were gonna say “the first at Stanford”. BUT IN THE WHOLE U-S of A 😩🙌🏿 happy sad at the same time.”

Twitter user Andrew Schut was, however, quick to draw everyone’s attention to Dr Alexa Canady who is actually the first black female professor of neurosurgery at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

The decorated neurosurgeon specialized in pediatric neurosurgery and was the chief of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital in Michigan from 1987 until her retirement in 2001.

This takes nothing away from the fact that women of colour are underrepresented at the top of the health service in the United States.

Dr Odette Harris is still the first black woman Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University’s Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System. She is also the Director of Brain Injury, Department of Neurosurgery and the Associate Chief of Staff, Rehabilitation (TBI, Spinal Cord Injury, Blind Service, PM&R) and Polytrauma among other administrative appointments.

She has practised medicine for 21 years and has been honoured with the William VanWagenen Fellowship from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellowship among other awards.

Harris earned her initial degree at Dartmouth College, received her MD from the Stanford University School of Medicine.  She also completed the MPH program at the University of California, Berkeley and then completed her internship and residency at Stanford University Medical Center.

Dr Odette Harris’s contributions to neurosurgery will serve as a stepping stone and inspiration to aspiring African-American women neurosurgeons.

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