Dr. Ben Carson is the stuff that legends are made of. He is black history in the flesh, and the winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Dr. Carson also serves as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Dr. Carson became the youngest physician to ever head a major division at Johns Hopkins University, becoming the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the age of 33. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, raised by a single mother. He struggled in school initially, but his mother put the clamps down and forced him to stop watching so much television. She also made him read two books per week and write reviews for her.
Dr. Carson eventually graduated with honors from Southwestern High School and attended Yale University, where he earned his degree in Psychology. From there, he went on to the University of Michigan Medical School.
Dr. Carson did his Neurosurgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where he was the first doctor to be able to relieve pressure from a little girl’s brain with an intrauterine procedure that helped the girl to stop having uncontrollable seizures. The doctor later became the first physician ever to successfully separate two conjoined twins who were connected at the back of the head. The team had 70 members, with Carson being the leader, and the procedure lasted for 22 hours.
I looked at that situation. I said, ‘Why is it that this is such a disaster?’ and it was because they would always exsanguinate. They would bleed to death, and I said, ‘There’s got to be a way around that. These are modern times.’ This was back in 1987. I was talking to a friend of mine, who was a cardiothoracic surgeon, who was the chief of the division, and I said, ‘You guys operate on the heart in babies, how do you keep them from exsanguinating’ and he says, ‘Well, we put them in hypothermic arrest.’ I said, ‘Is there any reason that – if we were doing a set of Siamese twins that were joined at the head – that we couldn’t put them into hypothermic arrest, at the appropriate time, when we’re likely to lose a lot of blood?’ and he said, ‘No way .’ I said, ‘Wow, this is great.’ Then I said, ‘Why am I putting my time into this? I’m not going to see any Siamese twins.’ So I kind of forgot about it, and lo and behold, two months later, along came these doctors from Germany, presenting this case of Siamese twins. And, I was asked for my opinion, and I then began to explain the techniques that should be used, and how we would incorporate hypothermic arrest, and everybody said ‘Wow! That sounds like it might work.’ And, my colleagues and I, a few of us went over to Germany. We looked at the twins. We actually put in scalp expanders, and five months later we brought them over and did the operation, and lo and behold, it worked.
Dr. Carson is the author of several books, including “Gifted Hands,” “The Big Picture,” “Take the Risk,” and “Think Big.” Dr. Carson met his wife Lacena in 1971 and married her in 1975.