Celebrated Black neurosurgeon returns to Mississippi

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City of Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee and Dr. Hyde. (Photo courtesy of Jones County Chamber of Commerce)

Recently, Laurel, MS, welcomed celebrated and world-renowned neurosurgeon, Dr. Deborrah Hyde, back home with a street naming in her honor. Dr. Deborrah Hyde Avenue is on the east side of town. 

It’s not often that a small town like Laurel can brag that it produced the nation’s second Black female neurosurgeon, but Laurel has that distinction. Talk about getting a great start in life: Dr. Deborrah Hyde was delivered into this world on January 18, 1949 by midwife, Katie Price, who was Leontyne Price’s mother. Mary Violet Leontyne Price was the first African American opera singer to garner international acclaim. 

Dr. Hyde graduated from Laurel’s Oak Park High School as valedictorian. She then went on to attend Tougaloo College.

In a recent interview with the Jackson Advocate, Dr. Deborrah Hyde said, “Tougaloo College provided me with the intestinal fortitude and courage to believe that I could do anything! Therefore, becoming a neurosurgeon was not off the radar for me. Attending Tougaloo College gave me the inner strength and academic prowess to stand tall and face the world as an equal in any area that I chose to compete in as a young adult from a place like Mississippi in 1969-1970 when I graduated as valedictorian, AKA Psi Sweetheart, and Miss Tougaloo. I learned about my African American heritage that was not taught at segregated Oak Park High School in Laurel.

“Tougaloo empowered me to be tough enough to go anywhere and do anything. Tougaloo was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Upon graduation from Tougaloo, Dr. Hyde was accepted at Cleveland State University and graduated with honors with a M.S. in Biology (1971-72). In 1982, she matriculated to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, receiving top-of-her-class honors with the distinction of being a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society and the 1st female and African American to train at Case Western. 

When asked how and why she wanted to become a neurosurgeon, she said, “All the other white male medical students were applying to medical school, and I knew I had better grades than all of them. So why not go on to med school? At first, I thought I’d become a professor at some college and teach, but I chose Dr. Peter Baker as my advisor and became interested in neurology because the human nervous system always fascinated me even as far back as Tougaloo. I had scholarships and student loans to fund my education; I never thought of myself or my family as poor. Because of my family support and belief in God, I knew I could do anything.”

Dr. Hyde started her stellar medical career and practice in upstate New York at the Guthrie Clinic and the Robert Tacker Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania. Eventually, she practiced as a neurosurgeon in West Hills, California, with privileges at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and Northridge Medical Center. 

Forty years after graduation from Case Western Reserve University, Dr. Hyde was chosen as the 2017 Distinguished Alumnae of the Year. And, in 1997, Tougaloo College presented her with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

Upon her decision to retire and return to Mississippi, she purchased a home in 2015 but did not physically move back to establish residency until 2019. 

In her spare time, she enjoys creating fashion with shows in Jackson and California. Her handmade jewelry has been displayed in Essence and Black Enterprise magazines in the past. Dr. Hyde states, “One hospital in California allowed Black Enterprise magazine to display my handmade jewelry on an operating table.” She reports, “The pinnacle of my jewelry designing career came when a piece I sold to a local clothing designer ended up being worn by “Cher” on stage at a VH1 Divas of Las Vegas concert. I’ve always had a creative side to my personality. I really use jewelry making to relax and as a complete diversion to express myself away from medicine; it’s my therapy.” Hyde’s jewelry is inspired by her world travels throughout Egypt, Gabon, Bangkok, and Singapore and she uses indigenous raw materials from her travels and semiprecious stones to make bold statement pieces. 

Dr. Hyde is the daughter of Mrs. Annie Eurydis Huff (Hyde) McDonald, Mr. Fellus Hyde, and her stepfather Mr. Amos McDonald. She professes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and notes that, “I never went into surgery without praying first as I scrubbed in, before entering the surgery suite. I felt God had ordered my steps throughout my amazing career as a neurosurgeon. I was also inspired by the great poet, Maya Angelou as I met her once in New York and was privileged to dine with her and friends in her home during a grand and intimate dinner. She served as my muse.”

Finally, Dr. Hyde said, “I try to fully communicate with my patients. I strive to explain their medical condition and discuss their treatment options in plain language. My patients’ questions are answered while in my office. I want no patient to leave the office thinking they were rushed through their visit.”

At present, Dr. Hyde works full time as a patient care physician at Ellisville State School (Ellisville, MS), which is a 100-year-old intermediate care facility that provides basic medical care for intellectually-compromised patients. Not being able to just sit at home after a successful 38-year career as a neurosurgeon, she now utilizes her unique skill set in a place that desperately needs a physician of her caliber. The citizens of Mississippi can be grateful that Dr. Hyde has returned to Laurel and that she is willing to offer herself as a servant of her people.

Additionally, Dr. Hyde works with the Beacon of Hope nonprofit and has provided scholarships to students in Laurel and California for over 22 years. 

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Celebrated Black neurosurgeon returns to Mississippi

By Brinda Fuller Willis
December 8, 2022