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False! Latunde Odeku, not first African-American neurosurgeon

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Claim: An X user claims Olatunde Odeku is the first black neurosurgical doctor.

False! Latunde Odeku, not first African-American neurosurgeon

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Although Nigeria is still identified as a third-world country, Nigerians take pride in celebrating themselves whenever they attain a feat at the global level.

Recently, an X user, Nigeria Stories (@NigeriaStories), posted that a Nigerian, Professor Latunde Odeku, is the first black individual to become a medical doctor in neurosurgery. The X user further asserted that Dr Odeku became a trailblazer for other African Americans in the field.

“This is Professor Latunde Odeku, The First Black Neurosurgeon. He is a Nigerian. He paved the way for Ben Carson and Neurosurgery in Africa. A true legend,” Nigeria Stories wrote.

As of June 6, 2024, the post had attracted 72 comments, 703 retweets, 4,300 likes, 119 bookmarks, and over 97,000 views.

In a reaction to the post, while some users believed it, some doubted its authenticity. 

“Africans lead, others follow.” Adeleke Timothy Bamidele (@AdelekeTB1) commented.

“First black to make a positive impact are always Yoruba men.” Eazyy (@Eazyy622121) wrote.

“Prof Odeku was not the first Nigerian neurosurgeon trained in the US. (H)e is not the first black neurosurgeon,” HeavenBound (@gospelsongng) pointed out.

Due to the sensitivity of the post, DUBAWA decided to verify the claim.

Verification

DUBAWA conducted a keyword search and came across two articles published by the National Library of Medicine, which were vital to the claim.

The first article identifies Clarence Greene (Snr), born in Washington, District of Columbia, as the first African-American certified neurosurgeon. According to the National Library of Medicine, Dr Greene received his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine (BS/MD) at Howard University College of Medicine, with a distinction, in 1936. 

After that, Greene trained under the renowned Wilder Penfield in neurosurgery at Montreal Neurological Institute between 1947 and 1949. After receiving accolades from Dr Penfield, Dr Greene became the first African-American to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery on Oct. 22, 1953.

Neuro also projects Dr Greene as the first African American to be certified as a neurosurgeon.

BlackFacts.org also mentions that when Dr Greene returned to Howard in 1949, he eventually assumed the role of “Chief of the newly established Division of Surgery.” He would later perform the first craniotomies for intracranial aneurysms and brain tumours at Howard University Hospital (formerly Freedmen’s Hospital), where he had once been an assistant resident.

It also mentions that Dr Greene became the first African-American diplomate appointed by the American Board of Neurosurgery in 1953.

The second article published by the National Library of Medicine, which discusses Dr Odeku, discloses that he was born on June 27, 1927, in Lagos, Nigeria. In 1954, he received his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine (BS/MD) from Howard University College of Medicine. As a resident between 1956 and 1960, he trained under Dr Edgar Kahn, Chief of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan. 

In 1961, he returned to Howard University as a neurosurgery faculty member. During this period, according to the National Library of Medicine, Odeku became the second African American to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

ResearchGate also identifies Dr Odeku as the second African-American to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.  

Conclusion

The claim is false. Dr Greene was the first African American to be certified as a neurosurgeon in 1953. Dr Odeku was the second African American in 1961 and the first Nigerian neurosurgeon.

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