From the O.R. to the Oval Office- 3 Docs Who Ran- part 2

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Yesterday I told you about Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President. You can read part 1 here.

Today, 2 more physician candidates  from the Republican party.

Randall “Rand” Paul, M.D., Republican party candidate

Dr. Rand Paul, ophthalmologist, ran for President as a Republican candidate.

He suspended his campaign.

Some notes about Dr. Paul.

  1. Dr. Paul graduated from Duke University Medical School.
  2. He was elected Senator from Kentucky in 2010.
  3. He is married, has 3 children, and coached his children in Little League baseball, soccer and basketball.
  4. His father Dr. Ron Paul is an obstetrician/gynecologist, has served in the House of Representatives, and also ran for President.
  5. He has served as President of the Lions Club International .
  6. He provides eye surgery free of charge to people unable to pay in his home state of Kentucky.
  7. He has travelled around the world as a volunteer eye surgeon, providing care to people unable to pay; a recent trip was to Guatemala. He has received awards for his humanitarian work.
  8. Dr. Paul has written books, including Our Presidents & Their Prayers: Proclamations of Faith by America’s Leaders 

a vision refractor
An ophthalmologist is a physician (doctor of medicine, MD, or doctor of osteopathy, DO) who specializes in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and visual system and in the prevention of eye disease and injury.

Benjamin Carson, M.D., Republican party candidate 

Dr. Carson , a neurosurgeon, was one of the candidates for the Republican nomination.

He has suspended his campaign.

These notes about Dr. Carson are taken from his 1992 autobiography

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story


Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story which I recently 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.


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.

Dr. Carson specialized in two difficult and dangerous types of surgeries.

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.

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)







Gifted Hands movie
Gifted Hands- The Ben Carson Story movie version starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

Doctors don’t always make money-find out why

But physicians don’t always get paid. Health care is never “free”. Even in countries with socialized medicine or universal health care, someone pays for health care, it just may not be the recipient of that care.
Doctors in the United States give away their services in different ways. One is care that could be but is not reimbursed, either because it’s not a covered benefit under one’s insurance plan, is denied by insurance for some, usually unexplainable reason, or failure of the patient to pay their cost share, aka bad debt.
But many physicians voluntarily give away their services, or work for far less than they could be paid. According to another Medscape survey on physician lifestyle, a large percentage of physicians do so.
Medscape Physician Lifestyle Survey 
(The report focuses on burn-out, which I’m  not going to address in this post. )
Among the  20,000 physicians polled, 72% of the non burn-out doctors volunteer. Even among the burned out group, 63% still volunteer.
The top volunteer activities were 
    work with a religious organization
    work associated with school
    pro-bono local clinical work 
Dr Chorley with Patient
treating patients in a rural clinic in Zanzibar
next frequent were  tutoring and/or counseling, foundation work, and international mission/work.
Other activities noted were
animal rescue, medical response to disasters, work with homeless, and medical military reserves. 
doctors in an operating room
American surgeons operating in an Ecuadorian hospital
(The report did not specify whether or not any of these activities were compensated.)
When physicians choose to work for charitable or humanitarian type organizations, they usually make far less  money than they would in private practice. Especially with faith based organizations, the doctor may have to raise support through donations from family, friends or churches.
When a doctor takes time away from practice to volunteer, there is a loss of income if that income is based on productivity. Expenses associated with volunteering is often tax deductible to some extent, but lost income is not.
Volunteer medical teams include other health professionals, including dentists, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, as well as non-medically trained people who come along to help in any way they can. Volunteer medical teams may provide medical and surgical treatment of conditions ranging from minor to life threatening. Some focus on health education and/or training of healthcare professionals. Some organizations focus on delivering medical supplies and equipment.
Everywhere I have travelled on volunteer medical teams, the people we treat respect and admire American physicians and appreciate the care we provide-sometimes more than people here at home do. I  go to help them, but usually come home feeling that I received more than I gave.
doctor with patient
with a medical team working in VietNam
These are some of the organizations I know, there are many others.
HealthCare Ministries
Global Health Relief
Heart to Heart
World Medical Mission
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