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Black, chair of the neurosurgery department of Los Angeles’ prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,
didn’t get where he is by having influential connections or being born to wealth and privilege. Well . . . not privilege in the traditional sense. But he does indeed feel privileged to have had parents who ignored the social barriers facing African Americans in the deep South in the 1960s and motivated both their sons to excel beyond external expectations. That's why, when he faced a bigoted department head at the University of Michigan Medical School, who would deny him entrance to the neurosurgery department, Black was prepared to overcome those biases by means of superior knowledge and performance.

He went on to achieve a stellar career in research and neurosurgery, first at UCLA and then at Cedars-Sinai. His story, coupled with harrowing accounts of a handful of his patients, is cleanly written, inspirational, and a superb fit for the times in which we live.

— Donna Chavez



Black, chair of the department of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, reflects on his
extraordinary life and career. As an African-American growing up in Alabama and Ohio, Black benefited from the emphasis his scholarly parents put on learning: "I was brought up to believe there was nothing that I could not do," and he published his first scientific paper at age 17 and went on to pioneer blood-brain barrier research to enable chemotherapy drugs to reach brain tumors directly.

Introducing the reader to his colleagues and patients, Black tours the interior of the brain with detailed accounts of delicate surgical procedures: "Under the microscope I could see the delicate latticework of blood vessels covering the brainstem, all of which absolutely had to be preserved."

Documenting the risks and rewards of the procedures he performs, he also examines racial hurdles he had to leap to become a neurosurgeon. Black is equally skilled as an author, alternating incisive writing about incisions with his personal memoir, insightful and inspirational.







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