Ghana’s Nancy Abu-Bonsrah is Johns Hopkins’ first black female neurosurgeon resident

Ghana’s Nancy Abu-Bonsrah is Johns Hopkins’ first black female neurosurgeon resident
4 min read

Nancy Abu-Bonsrah is making waves and history as the first black female neurosurgeon resident at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Nancy Abu-Bonsrah (Photo Credit: Nancy Abu-Bonsrah)

On Match Day, a medical tradition in the US where graduating (fourth year) medical students get to find out which schools they have been matched to to pursue further medical residency training, Ghanaian Nancy Abu-Bonsrah was matched with Johns Hopkins School of Hospital to specialize in neurological surgery.

Match Day (Photo Credit: Nancy Abu-Bonsrah)

In the 30 years that Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s neurosurgical department has accepted residents, there has never been a black woman in the ranks. The prestigious program accepts just two to five residents, and is ranked second in the country. Among its most notable alumni is Dr. Ben Carson, who is now the United States secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (Source: CNN)

Nancy was born in Ghana, but in 2005 she moved to Maryland, USA with her family when her father was offered a job with the international branch of a non-profit organisation. She attended Hammond High School in Columbia, MD (class of 2008) and moved on to Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry. In August 2012, Nancy began medical training at John Hopkins.

Nancy Abu-Bonsrah and colleagues at John Hopkins School of Medicine (Photo Credit: Nancy Abu-Bonsrah)


My decision to pursue medicine stemmed from a desire to be of service to others, particularly knowing that there were a significant number of people in my home country who could not receive essential medical services. My family and teachers encouraged and nurtured this goal and it is exciting to see it come to fruition.


  • Why Neurosurgery?

“My desire to pursue neurosurgery was actually borne out of shadowing experiences in Ghana. During the winter break in my junior year at Mount St. Mary’s University, I had an opportunity to spend some time in one of the teaching hospitals in Ghana; the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. It was there that I experienced the uniqueness of neurosurgery as well as the general lack of access to care. Not only was I impressed by the surgical skill and fascinated by anatomy, I was also stunned by how overwhelmed the surgeons were. Ultimately, I felt that this field would help me marry a love for the field with a desire to serve. This is why I cannot wait to go back and serve, not only in Ghana, but in other low resource settings.”

  • You made history as the first black woman to join the neurosurgery program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where the medical discipline of neurological surgery was founded. How did you do it?

“I made it thus far through hard work and receiving a lot of mentorship and support from those around me. However, in a lot of ways, I believe I was at the right place, at the right time. I am very fortunate and I hope to use this platform to ensure that other students are likewise fortunate.”

  • What keeps you motivated?

“My family, my hope to be able to provide effective neurosurgical care for those in need, and the opportunity to mentor others, particularly minorities who are interested in the field.”

  • Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

“I hope to join the dedicated group of neurosurgeons who seek to provide neurosurgical care to those most at need but with few resources.”

  • Any final words for the young girls looking up to you right now?

“Know the reason behind your goals and aspirations, work hard for it and always reach out to others for help when you need it. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”