In honor of Black History Month, we're showcasing Laurel's most influential men and women who have used their talents and gifts to pave the way for future generations. One of the most notable African-American women in medical history happens to be born and raised in Laurel.
M. Deborrah Hyde, MD, MS was the second African-American woman certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. Her career and tenacity to overcome circumstances have made her an inspiration to many. She was born in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1949. While Laurel was far more progressive for black business owners and civilians than most Mississippi small towns at that time, her childhood was greatly affected by racial segregation and the Jim Crow Laws. These laws prevented African-Americans from voting, receiving a competitive education compared to white students, and limited opportunities in the workforce.
While these laws impacted black lives deeply, Dr. Hyde’s perseverance and pure determination to achieve her dreams were made that much stronger. She says that her parents were not highly educated, but they were smart, hardworking and understood the importance of education. They noticed her love for learning and reading at an early age, and they celebrated her desire to broaden her worldview.
Deborrah always felt encouraged to defy limitations, aim for higher heights and pave the way for her four younger siblings. She continued to soar in her community and her studies all throughout grade school, and she graduated as Valedictorian at Oak Park High School. She would pursue higher education soon after and eventually medical school.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree with honors from Tougaloo College in 1969, and the entire experience was eye-opening for her. She was once a big fish in a small pond, but now the pond was full of students with diverse backgrounds and economic advantages. She hadn't realized she was from an underprivileged family until she went to college, but once again, her differences and apparent economic disparity didn't overcome her. She worked hard and excelled academically and socially, becoming Miss Tougaloo College at the end of her tenure. She would go on to gain an MS at Cleveland State University.
During her earlier years in medical school, a professor discouraged her by comparing her to the “better-prepared” non-minority students. She responded by receiving her MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and was even inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society.
She began her neurosurgery residency and became the program’s first female graduate. She became the second African-American woman to become a Neurosurgeon, and she hopes to encourage other minority students to follow in her footsteps. Since then, she has built an established career for 38 years in private practice in West Hills, California.
Dr. Hyde didn't forget about her roots in Mississippi, and she generously created the Beacon of Hope Scholarship Foundation to help underprivileged students that have significant educational obstacles. Her determination and life’s work inspire students of all races to work hard and achieve greatness.