A pediatric neurosurgeon born in Detroit, Michigan and made famous by a successful operation he performed to separate Siamese twins in 1987, Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. was raised by his mother Sonya after his parents divorced when he was 8 years old. His mother was only 13 when she married and had dropped out of high-school to marry. Struggling to survive and support her two sons, Benjamin and Curtis, she often worked two to three jobs at a time just to make ends meet. By the time Benjamin was in the fifth grade, however, he had slipped to the bottom of his class and developed an uncontrollable temper.
This led to strict action on the part of his mother. She cut the boy’s television watching and only allowed them to play once all their homework was complete. She also required her two sons to each read two library books a week—and provide her with written book reports. Even though she had trouble reading what they had written because of her lack of education, she stuck to her guns. She often pretended to read the reports.
Within just a few weeks, Benjamin had turned around his failing grades and after a year, Benjamin was at the top of his classes. When he realized that he wasn’t stupid, a hunger for more knowledge overtook Benjamin and he began to read everything he could get his hands on. He graduated with honors from high school and then attended Yale University, earning a Psychology degree.
He shifted his interest from psychiatry to neurosurgery after entering the Medical School of the University of Michigan. Carson had developed excellent hand-eye coordination and deployed excellent 3-D reasoning skills that helped to make him a superior surgeon. Though he started out in adult neurosurgery, he moved to pediatric neurosurgery because he believed that he could prolong children’s lives with his work and have a greater impact in his work. By 32, he was named the Johns Hopkins Hospital Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery in Baltimore.
Making medical history with the separation of a pair of Siamese twins in 1987 who were joined at the back of the head, Dr. Carson has developed several surgical innovations throughout his career landing him the White House’s Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008, one of the highest civilian awards available. What made his innovative procedure work on the twins is how he applied techniques used in heart surgery to this specialized surgery.
The problem with separting the twins at the back of the head would be an extreme loss of blood. After talking to a colleague and asking him how this was handled on pediatric heart patients, Carson thought that he would use the same technique on the Siamese twins. The technique involves hypothermic arrest, which essentially shuts down the heart briefly during critical surgical procedures to prevent excessive bleeding. The procedure worked, much to the astonishment of other doctors, as this kind of surgery had never been completed successfully. Usually one or both of the attached Siamese twins would die.
A speaker often in demand across the United States, Carson has also written five books, “Gifted Hands,” “The Big Picture,” “Take the Risk,” “America the Beautiful” and “Think Big,” a motivational book. A Seventh-Day Adventist, Carson’s personal philosophies include the belief in hard work and a faith in God. A movie appeared on TNT in 2009 with Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. starring as Carson, titled “Gifted hands: The Ben Carson Story.”
In 1975 Carson married his Yale sweetheart, Candy Rustin, a musician. They have three sons Rhoeyce, Benjamin Jr., and Murray. In 2002, Carson was diagnosed with prostate cancer and has cut back on his speaking and medical schedule, though he still performs operations. To read more about Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., please review any one of the many links:
- Academy of Achievement
- Conversations from Penn State—Ben Carson
- Opening Doors Exhibit
- National Academy of Sciences
- World Changers
- Every Day Matters Interview
- Biography of Dr. Ben Carson
- Medal of Freedom Winner
- Honorary Doctorate Degree in Alabama
- Keynote Speaker at Northwestern University
- Honorary Degree Recipient at Marquette University
- Carson Scholars Fund The President’s Council on Bioethics
- Loma Linda University News—Dr. Ben Carson Commencement Speaker
- Dr. Benjamin Carson Challenges Class of 2011
- Norfolk State University Speech
- Dr. Benjamin Carson Biography
- Dr. Benjamin’s Profile at Johns Hopkins
- Neurosurgeon Named as Yale Alumni Trustee
- Institute of Medicine Adds Carson to Membership
- Recipient of the George Washington Carver Award
- Audio Debate with Dr. Benjamin Carson
- Johns Hopkins Children Center Announcement