Neurosurgery involves surgical treatment of conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Neurosurgeons typically train an additional six to seven years after completing medical school and they learn to treat complex conditions like tumors, spinal cord injuries, brain aneurysms and Parkinson's disease. In the early 1950s, when racial segregation was commonplace in the United States, Dr. Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr. earned the distinction of becoming the first black neurosurgeon.
The Early Years
Clarence Sumner Greene was born on December 26, 1901 in Washington, D.C. He excelled in baseball, basketball, football and track in high school. He was known as the "Bronze Apollo" for his good looks, according to the "Journal of the National Medical Association." Before turning to medicine, he received his degree in dentistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1926.
A Brief, Distinguished Career
In 1936, Greene received his medical degree from the Howard University College of Medicine. He spent seven years training in general surgery and received certification from the American Board of Surgery. After serving for four years as a professor of surgery at Howard University, Dr. Greene trained in neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Dr. Greene became the first black neurologist on October 22, 1953, when he was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. He returned to Howard University, where he served as chair of neurosurgery until his sudden death in 1957.