Have You Heard Of Latunde Odeku? The First Black Neurosurgeon Who Blazed The Trail For Ben Carson


Latunde Odeku was the first professor of neurosurgery in Nigeria and West Africa. He was in fact, the first black neurosurgeon in history.

We often hear of Ben Carson. How come no one remembers Emmanuel Olatunde Olanrewaju Alaba Odeku, the first black neurosurgeon to be trained in the United States?

Latunde was born on the 29th of June 1927, to the Adubieye family of Awe, in Afijio Local Government in the then Oyo Province in Western Nigeria.

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For his educational profile, Lakunde schooled in Nigeria until the secondary school level. He attended St. John’s primary School in Aroloya in 1932 and Methodist Boys’ High School (MBHS) in 1945; both in Lagos State of Nigeria.

The brilliant chap left the country for his tertiary education, which he obtained by scholarship. Report says that he was a beneficiary of the New York Phelps-Stokes Fund Scholarship for Medical Education.

Lakunde studied at Howard University, Washington D.C, United States. While he was there, he also secured another scholarship worth $8,000. From there he went to medical school and earned his MD in 1954. He later did his postgraduate internship for one year.

The qualified Nigerian Neurosurgeon insisted on coming back home to practice his profession. Lakunde worked as a medical officer at the Lagos General Hospital. He published over 100 scientific papers. He also had an excellent poetic talent.

During the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), he helped to save the lives of soldiers who were wounded in the war.

According to Wikipedia, he trained in Neurology under Dr. Webb Haymaker at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C; underwent another pediatric neurosurgery residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under Dr. Eugene Spitz, creator of the Spitz-Holter valve for treating hydrocephalus.

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By 1961, Lakunde became the Instructor of Neuroanatomy and Neurosurgery at the College of Medicine, Howard University.

Latunde Odeku was married to a British medical doctor, Katherine Jill. Together they had 4 children.

He died on August 20, 1974 from Diabetes complications.