Benjamin Carson – persistence through adversity

Our story today is one of hope, of faith, strength, resilience and sheer determination. It’s one of persistence and the burning desire to succeed. It’s one that is meant to inspire, to encourage, to elucidate and to exhilarate. It’s the story of Dr. Benjamin Carson.

One’s success cannot be judged simply by his position or stature in society but by one’s reach with respect to one’s beginnings. That is true success, as embodied in the life and work of Dr. Carson, a world renowned neurosurgeon. Dr. Carson's humble beginnings today shines through an illustrious and almost unfathomable career. Today we look at his journey, the obstacles and the road to overcoming them.We are certain that most of you are already familiar with Dr. Carson’s story, but where is he now? What new endeavoursare on the horizon for the gifted surgeon?

Early Life: Abject Poverty

Benjamin Carson was born and raised in inner-city Detroit. His mother, Sonya had dropped out of school in the third grade, and married when she was only 13. When Benjamin was only eight, his parents divorced, and Mrs. Carson was left to raise him and his older brother Curtis on her own. She worked multiple jobs (often of a domestic nature), at a time to keep her family afloat financially. Through her stellarinsistence on his educational development, however, Carson credits her influence with much of his success.

Initially, Carson was a carefree student. His grades were low and as he fell farther behind in school, by the fifth grade, he was at the bottom of his class. His classmates called him a "dummy" and he developed a violent, uncontrollable temper. Regardless, his mother enforceda vigorous studying routine which imbued within him a newthirst for knowledge.Within a year, he was at the top of his class. This enabled young Benjamin to graduate from high school with honours and gain admission to Yale University where he pursued a degree in Psychology.  He then went onto medical school at the University of Michigan, where his interest shifted from psychiatry to neurosurgery.

Navito - Dr. Ben Carson - young                               Image Credit: – Young Benjamin

His Medical Journey

Neurosurgery, involves numerous complicated processes that not only require knowledge but keen visualisation and excellent hand-eye coordination. This is the embodiment of a good surgeon, the embodiment of Dr. Carson who, with an extensive neurological background was able to accomplish amazing feats in the surgical theatre.

After medical school, Carson became a neurosurgery resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He became the first black doctor to be accepted to complete residency at Johns Hopkins. Through hard work and persistence, Carson quickly moved through the ranks to become the youngest physician to ever head a major division at Johns Hopkins, he was only 33. Since then (1984), he has held the position of director of paediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. He is also a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and paediatric medicine.

Gifted Hands

In 1987, Carson made medical history with an operation to separate a pair of Siamese twins, the Binder twins, born joined at the back of the head. Previous attempts had always failed, resulting in the death of one or both of the infants. Leading a 70-member surgical team, Carson worked for over 20 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and survived independently.

Navito - Dr. Ben Carson - twinsImage Credit: Laden (left) and Laleh Bijani, the Iranian conjoined twins Ben Carson and others operated on in an attempt to separate them.

In his illustrious career, Carson has had a slew of other phenomenal breakthroughs. Such surgical innovations have included the first intra-uterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy, in which an infant suffering from uncontrollable seizures has half of its brain removed, stopping the seizures, and the remaining half of the brain compensates for the missing hemisphere.

Numerous Hats

As an accomplished neurosurgeon who has defied the odds to realize his dreams, Dr. Carson is in constant demand as a motivational speaker and works extensively with young people. He is also an accomplished writer having penned popular books such as a memoir, Gifted Hands, and a motivational book, Think Big. In 2008, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour.

Carson for President?

Dr. Carson made a name for himself in the political arena several months ago by delivering a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast that delighted conservatives and to some subtle extent criticized the Obama administration. Carson’s simplicity and common sense points struck note with the nation and brought a wave of discussions about revolutionising America.

After the speech, a Wall Street Journal editorial proclaimed "Ben Carson for President," and The Atlantic described him as "the New American Folk Hero." However, he has credited his motive to the need for change in America: the need for economic restructuring, for repudiating moral decay, for muzzling political correctness and increasing freedom of speech, for improving health care and education, and  simply bringing America to where it can be as opposed tothe mire it finds itself in today. Otherwise, Rome could happen to America, touted Carson, with the president sitting only a few feet away.

As his wave of sensational speeches continue, Carson has gotten himself at the centre of even more controversy amid various comments such as one particularly aimed at homosexuals. In his comments, Carson compared gay marriage to bestiality and paedophilia. Such utterances incensed John Hopkins students and faculty members who went into a frenzy, admonishing him from speaking and moved the petition "We don't want Dr. Carson To Speak".In effect, he has stepped down as the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine commencement speaker this year. This is in the face of his decision to retire for active surgery this summer.

Black Conservative?
There are several issuessurrounding Carson’s seemingly growing aims at political office. Though he appears to be the paradigm of a good candidate, there are large roadblocks that stand in the way of a ‘President Carson’. While he claims he is not necessarily aiming at presidency unless moved by the hands of God to do so, his poignant speeches leave many Americans looking to him for leadership.

However, many of Carson’s policies, rising from his religious stance will not sit well with major segments of the electorate. Moreover, hispolitical stance brings into clearfocus the issue of African Americans as part of the Republican Party. While hefollows in a long line of respected black Republicans including Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, can he win the favour of African Americans under the Republican Party?

Navito - Dr. Ben Carson - Obama        Image Credit: Carson, next black President of America?

Perfect Match for the GOP?

Since his rise to presidency, Obama has been the prize of the Democratic Party, its crown jewel by any measure. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has been searching for a similar figure to call their own. Of course, there are clear similarities between the two men. Both were raised by single mothers and managed to garner degrees from Ivy League universities.  This mayleave many asking, is Carson the perfect match for the Republican Party as Obama has been for the Democrats?

Navito - Dr. Ben Carson 4                                         Image Credit:

Carson, GOP’s candidate for next elections?

The story of Dr. Ben Carson is an incredibly compelling one. His success and contribution to medicine as well as his dedication to children has been phenomenal. While he uses his God-given abilities to give children hope for a second chance at a healthy and normal life, will he also enter the political arena and usher change in America?

By: Norvan Martin



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