Brain Byte

Black History Is: Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr.

  • Published22 Feb 2024
  • Author Cyrenna Cooper
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN

Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr. was the first African American neurosurgeon certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

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Clarence Sumner Greene Sr. Brain byte
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Clarence Summer Greene, Sr. became the first African American neurosurgeon certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery in 1953. Greene became interested in neurosurgery in 1927 after finishing dental school. After completing a two-year premedical program at Harvard University and interning at Cleveland City Hospital, he enrolled in the Howard University College of Medicine, earning his M.D. in 1936. Following a residency at Douglass Hospital in Philadelphia, Greene became an assistant resident at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in Washington, D.C. He was later appointed as an assistant professor of surgery at Howard University School of Medicine in 1943.

From 1947 to 1949, Greene trained as a neurosurgery resident at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University under the tutelage of pioneering neurosurgeon Wilder G. Penfield. Greene returned to Howard in 1949, eventually becoming the chief of the newly established Division of Neurosurgery. Greene was a skilled surgeon, performing the first craniotomies for intracranial aneurysms and brain tumors at Freedmen’s Hospital. In 1953, Greene became the first African American appointed diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery. A year after his unexpected death in 1957, the post-operative recovery and intensive care unit he instituted was named after him.

Design by Adrienne Tong



Clarence Sumner Greene. (n. d.) Consortium on the History of African Americans in the Medical Professions.

Hanoon, R., Ramirez, C., Lout, E., Barrie, U., & Aoun, S. G. (2023). Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr. (1901-1957): The First Board-Certified Black Neurosurgeon in the United States. World neurosurgery, 178, 9–13.

McClelland, S., 3rd, & Harris, K. S. (2006). Clarence Sumner Greene, Sr.: the first African-American neurosurgeon. Neurosurgery, 59(6), 1325–1327.

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