Ben Carson, MD-surgeon, Secretary, philanthropist

Dr. Ben Carson, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination and then served as Secretary of HUD, has started a conservative non-profit, the American Cornerstone Institute.

the 17th Secretary of HUD

Dr. Ben Carson , a neurosurgeon, was one of the candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President in 2016. He suspended his campaign before the convention.

Dr. Carson served in President Trump’s Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) . He left that position when the newly elected president Joe Biden was inaugurated.

This post was originally published in March 2016, and has been updated February 21, 2021. This post includes affiliate links.

American Cornerstone Institute

Dr. Carson started a new endeavor, the American Cornerstone Institute (ACI). According to the website,

“Dr. Carson is ensuring there is an organization fighting for the principles that have guided him through life, and that make this country great: Faith, Liberty, Community, and Life…. solutions guided by (these) principles are effective, and will point our nation toward the common good.

Dr. Carson has broken through barriers and has paved major roads in our political arena, both in Washington, D.C. and in communities across the country…..A champion for logic and common-sense solutions, Dr. Carson will always stay true to his principles and his faith, which guide ACI through this volatile time in our nation.

While conservative ideas will echo through our hallways, ACI will remain a non-partisan, not-for-profit institute…committed to working with anyone on anything that advances faith, liberty, community, or life.” (edited for length)

It’s time to heal our nation.

American Cornerstone Institute website

 

(Offered for information only, not an endorsement or affiliation of this organization by this blogger.)

Ben Carson, M.D., neurosurgeon

Here are some facts about Dr. Carson taken from his 1992 autobiography
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story which I read and enjoyed.

  1. Dr. Carson’s mother, Sonya, one of 24 children,  married at age 13 ;her husband abandoned her when Dr. Carson and his brother were young boys. An uneducated illiterate woman, she taught herself to read, and required her sons to read books weekly.
  2. While he was growing up, his family depended on food stamps to have enough to eat.
  3. At age 8, after hearing a missionary doctor speak at his church, he decided to become a physician.
  4. He had such poor vision, he was almost legally blind. His grades improved when he started wearing glasses.
  5. As a teenager, he had such a quick and fiery temper, her feared he might kill someone.
  6. Both he and his brother were in JROTC while in high school; his brother served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
  7. In high school he played clarinet and developed a love of classical music, something he would share with his future wife Candy.
  8. He chose to attend Yale over Harvard, because Yale beat Harvard in the GE College Bowl television program.
  9. During college he worked at the Ford Auto plant and at Chrysler.
  10. He and Candy lived in Australia for one year so he could train in neurosurgery there- and his first child was born in Australia that year.
  11. His third child was born at home- and he did the unplanned, quick delivery while his mother dialed 911 for help.

Pioneering Neurosurgery

Neurosurgery is the surgical specialty that deals with the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Long before Dr. Carson became involved in politics, he was known for his pioneering work in brain surgery. He discusses this work in his autobiography, which was also made into a movie of the same name. In the movie, one of my favorite actors, Cuba Gooding Jr., played Dr. Carson.

In hemispherectomy  half of the brain is surgically removed as a treatment for severe, intractable seizures. It is only used as a last resort, is not always successful and can cause paralysis on one side of the body. Dr.Carson was known as an expert in this surgery.

photos by Dr. Aletha at the Denver Museum of Science

Conjoined or Siamese twins joined at the head are rare, occurring in 1 in 2 million births.

“In 1987, Carson attracted international attention by performing a surgery to separate 7-month-old occipital craniopagus twins in Germany.

Patrick and Benjamin Binder were born joined at the head. Their parents contacted Carson, who went to Germany to consult with the family and the boys’ doctors. Because the boys were joined at the back of the head, and because they had separate brains, he felt the operation could be performed successfully.

On September 4, 1987, after months of rehearsals, Carson and a huge team of doctors, nurses and support staff joined forces for what would be a 22-hour procedure. Part of the challenge in radical neurosurgery is to prevent severe bleeding and trauma to the patients.

In the highly complex operation, Carson had applied both hypothermic and circulatory arrest. Although the twins did suffer some brain damage and post-operation bleeding, both survived the separation, allowing Carson’s surgery to be considered by the medical establishment the first successful procedure of its kind.”(from Ben Carson bio)

The Carson Scholars Fund

Dr. Carson is president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments.

The Carson Scholars Fund, Inc. was founded in 1994 to address the education crisis in the United States. Dr. Ben and his wife, Candy were alarmed by the state of American education.

Studies showed that our nation’s students ranked #21 out of 22 countries; next to the bottom of the list in science and math. They observed that many school display cases were filled with large trophies paying tribute to their sports teams’ achievements, while honor students only received a pin or certificate.

Dr. and Mrs. Carson felt compelled to take action. They believed that if children could be taught early to excel in school, they would stay motivated and have a higher chance of educational success later in life. The Carson Scholars Fund was built on these principles.

Recognized by Great Nonprofits as a Top-Rated Nonprofit, Carson Scholars is currently operating in 50 states and the District of Columbia, having awarded more than $ 6.2 million dollars to more than 6200 scholars.

The program also establishes Carson Reading Rooms in schools across the country to encourage young students and their families to discover the pleasure of reading and to recognize the true power of learning. To date the program has established over 100 reading rooms in 14 states in the U.S. (Information found on the Carsons’ Facebook page)

One Vote-Make Your Voice Heard

Dr. Carson wrote One Vote-Make Your Voice Heard with his wife Candy Carson. In it, they urge us to use the privilege and power of voting at every opportunity. Here is a link to an excerpt

YOU ARE THE PINNACLE OF POWER

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exploring the heart of HEALTH with Dr. Ben Carson

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When Breath Becomes Air- review of the memoir

Dr. Kalanithi faced his diagnosis with the same resolve, fortitude, and determination that served him well through medical school and a grueling neurosurgery residency. After his first round of treatment he was able to return to the operating room as a doctor, not a patient.

 

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi, M.D.,

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a 36-year-old resident physician who had, as he wrote, “reached the mountaintop” of anticipating a promising career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. He had a loving wife, a supportive family and professors who respected his knowledge and skill. He seemed destined to be sought after, well paid, productive, successful, and  famous.

(note: a neurosurgeon treats  brain, spinal cord and nerve  diseases such as brain tumors that can be cured or improved with surgery,)

Unfortunately, “the culmination of decades of striving evaporated” when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer for which the prognosis was bleak, even with treatment. He was admitted to the very hospital where he trained as a neurosurgery resident, now  to learn what it is like to be a patient with a potentially terminal illness.

Dr. Kalanithi faced his diagnosis with the same resolve, fortitude, and determination that served him well through medical school and a grueling neurosurgery residency. After his first round of treatment he was able to return to the operating room as a doctor, not a patient.

Prior to entering medicine, Dr. Kalanithi had studied literature, earning degrees in English literature as well as human biology. He also completed a doctorate in history and philosophy of science and medicine at Cambridge.

Thus, when he realized he was facing his own death, he turned to his first love of writing to chronicle his experience and to explore “what makes human life meaningful?” And as he explored the meaning of what life is all about, he also explored the inevitability of death.

“I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when.

But now I knew acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. But there is no other way to live.”

Dr. Kalanithi passed away without completing his book, although his wife writes in the epilogue, “When Breath Becomes Air is complete, just as it is.” She and his parents kept their promise to have his book published after his death. She writes, “Paul was proud of this book, which was a culmination of his love for literature.”

Even before I finished reading this book, I felt as if I knew Paul and his wife Lucy. As someone who also enjoys writing, I can understand and appreciate his desire to preserve and share this experience.

This memoir is not so much a diary of what happened to Dr. Kalanithi as what happened within him as he confronted his own mortality and chose not to let it define the remainder of his life.

On the copyright page, “Death and Dying” is included in the list of categories for this book. However, you will not find “how to die” instructions here. Instead, you will learn how one man and his family chose to live despite knowing that he would  soon die.

His wife, Dr.Lucy Kalanithi, spoken publicly about her husband, his illness, his death, and the memories he left her and us through his book. Listen as she reflects on his legacy in this interview .

from the book

“In the end, it cannot be doubted that each of us can see only a part of the picture….Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete. And Truth comes somewhere above all of them, where, as at the end of that Sunday’s (scripture) reading,

“The sowers and reapers can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

(note: the referenced scripture is from the Bible, John chapter 4, verses 36-38, precise version unidentified)

When Breath Becomes Air  was published by Random House.

Other reviews of his life and writing

from Stanford Medicine news- Paul Kalanithi, writer and surgeon, dies at 37

from KevinMD.com – A tribute to Paul Kalanithi

from The New Yorker, My Last Day as a Surgeon 

Michael Gerson, Washington Post opinion writer, Giving cancer a first-person voice

exploring the HEART of life and death

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