Ben Carson, Pediatric Neurosurgeon and Politician
Benjamin Solomon Carson Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an American politician, author and former neurosurgeon serving as the 17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since 2017, under the Trump Administration. Prior to his cabinet position, he was a candidate for President of the United States in the Republican primaries in 2016.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, and a graduate of Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School, Carson has authored numerous books on his medical career and political stances. He was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in a 2009 biographical television drama film. Carson was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland from 1984 until his retirement in 2013. As a pioneer in neurosurgery, Carson’s achievements include performing the only successful separation of conjoined twins joined at the back of the head; performing the first successful neurosurgical procedure on a fetus inside the womb; performing the first completely successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins; developing new methods to treat brain-stem tumors; and revitalizing hemispherectomy techniques for controlling seizures. He became the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the country at age 33. Carson has received more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees, dozens of national merit citations, and written over 100 neurosurgical publications. In 2001, he was named by CNN and TIME magazine as one of the nation’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists, and was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 “Living Legends” on its 200th anniversary.]In 2008, he was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.
Carson was the featured speaker at the 1997 National Prayer Breakfast. His widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast catapulted him to conservative fame for his views on social and political issues. On May 4, 2015, he announced he was running for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election at a rally in his hometown of Detroit. In March 2016, following the Super Tuesday primaries, he suspended his campaign and announced he would be the new national chairman of My Faith Votes, a group that encourages Christians to exercise their civic duty to vote. He then endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump.
Carson was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in a 58–41 vote and was sworn in on March 2, 2017.
Carson Scholars Fund
In 1994, Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund that awards scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities”.
Recipients of the Carson Scholars Fund receive a $1,000 scholarship towards their college education. It has awarded 6,700 scholarships. In recognition for his work with the Carson Scholars Fund and other charitable giving throughout his lifetime, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2005.
Carson and his wife are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA). Carson was baptized at Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church in Detroit. A few years later, he told the pastor at a church he was attending in Inkster, Michigan that he had not fully understood his first baptism and wanted to be baptized again. He has served as a local elder and Sabbath School teacher in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although Carson is an Adventist, the church has officially cautioned church employees to remain politically neutral.
Separating Conjoined Twins
In 1994, Carson and his team went to South Africa to separate the Makwaeba twins. The operation was unsuccessful, as both girls died from complications of the surgery. Carson was devastated, but vowed to press on, as he knew such procedures could be successful. In 1997, Carson and his team went to Zambia in South Central Africa to separate infant boys Luka and Joseph Banda. This operation was especially difficult because the boys were joined at the tops of their heads, facing in opposite directions, making it the first time a surgery of this type had been performed. After a 28-hour operation, that was supported by previously rendered 3-D mapping, both boys survived and neither suffered brain damage.
Over time, Ben Carson’s operations began to gain media attention. At first, what people saw was the soft-spoken surgeon explaining complicated procedures in simple terms. But in time, Carson’s own story became public—a troubled youth growing up in the inner city to a poor family eventually finding success.
Soon, Carson began traveling to schools, businesses and hospitals across the country telling his story and imparting his philosophy of life. Out of this dedication to education and helping young people, Carson and his wife founded the Carson Scholars Fund in 1994. The foundation grants scholarships to students and promotes reading in the younger grades.
Biggest Medical Challenge
In 2003, Ben Carson faced what was perhaps his biggest challenge: separating adult conjoined twins. Ladan and Laleh Bijani were Iranian women who were joined at the head. For 29 years, they had literally lived together in every conceivable way. Like normal twins, they shared experiences and outlooks, including earning law degrees, but as they got older and developed their own individual aspirations, they knew they could never lead independent lives unless they separated. As they told Carson at one point, “We would rather die than spend another day together.”
This type of medical procedure had never been attempted on conjoined adults because of the dangerous outcomes. By this time, Carson had been conducting brain surgery for nearly 20 years and had performed several craniopagus separations. He later stated he tried to talk the two women out of the surgery, but after many discussions with them and consultations with many other doctors and surgeons, he agreed to proceed.
Carson and a team of more than 100 surgeons, specialists and assistants traveled to Singapore in Southeast Asia. On July 6, 2003, Carson and his team began the nearly 52-hour operation. They again relied on a 3-D imaging technique that Carson had utilized to prepare for the Banda twins’ operation. The computerized images allowed the medical team to conduct a virtual surgery before the operation. During the procedure, they followed digital reconstructions of the twins’ brains.
The surgery revealed more difficulties outside of the girls’ ages; their brains not only shared a major vein but had fused together. The separation was completed during the afternoon on July 8. But it was soon apparent that the girls were in deep critical condition.
At 2:30 p.m., Ladan died on the operating table. Her sister Laleh died a short time later. The loss was devastating to all, especially Carson, who stated that the the girls’ bravery to pursue the operation had contributed to neurosurgery in ways that would live far beyond them.
Because of his unflagging dedication to children and his many medical breakthroughs, Carson has received a legion of honorary doctorate degrees and accolades, and has sat on the boards of numerous business and education boards.
Ben Carson quotes