Black in the Day…On the Brain

October 22, 1953:

On this day Dr. Clarence Greene became the first Black person to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

Largely because of the advances of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th
century, an increasing number of African-Americans have had the opportunity to become physicians and enter the distinguished field of neurosurgery. Many have made the most of this opportunity, becoming prominent in both academics and private practice.
Unfortunately, the details regarding the first African-American neurosurgeon, Clarence
Sumner Greene, Sr., have remained in relative obscurity.
Born on December 26, 1901 in Washington, D.C., Dr. Greene received his M.D.
from the Howard University College of Medicine with distinction in 1936. After 7 years of general surgery residency and 4 years as a professor of surgery at Howard University, he was granted the opportunity by the legendary Wilder G. Penfield to train in neuro- surgery at the world-renowned Montreal Neurological Institute from 1947 to 1949. Receiving high praise from Dr. Penfield, Dr. Greene became the first African-American
certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery on October 22, 1953.
Subsequently, he was appointed as chair of neurosurgery at Howard University, where
he successfully treated intracranial aneurysms, brain tumors, and herniated interverte-bral discs until his tragic death in 1957. The diligence and perseverance of Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr., M.D., D.D.S., F.A.C.S. enabled him to overcome incredible odds to become the first African-American neurosurgeon, trained by Dr. Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute. A true pio-
neer, his achievements have opened the door for subsequent African-Americans to
enhance the field of neurosurgery.

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