SUmmer Blog Post #1 - Monday, July 6th, 2020


Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson was born on September 18, 1951, in Detroit Michigan in the United States of America. Dr. Carson grew up with his brother and divorced single-mother in Detroit. His mother was illiterate and he initially struggled in school as well. But through his mother’s persistence and his dedication to learning, he was able to earn himself a scholarship to study Psychology at Yale University, joining the class of 1973. He then attended the University of Michigan for medical school. Despite being advised to drop out or take a lighter course load due to his poor academic performance in his first year, Carson graduated in 1977 and went on to complete his residency in neurosurgery at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. He would later become the youngest Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the age of 33.

Among other accomplishments such as professorships in plastic surgery, oncology, and pediatrics, Dr. Carson is best known for his seemingly impossible operation performed in 1987. Patrick and Benjamin Binder were occipital craniopagus twins, meaning they were connected at the back of their heads. No surgeon had ever separated Siamese twins before, but the courageous Dr. Carson had put his mind to this daunting task and eventually developed an innovative approach that was capable of making the unthinkable a reality.

To put the significance of this operation into perspective, one in every 200, 000 births involve conjoined twins and of these, 60% die before birth and 35% after a single day. A mere 2% of surviving twins are conjoined at the head specifically, meaning doctors are very unfamiliar with such a situation.

After months of rehearsal on dolls, Carson and his team of anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons, cardiac surgeons, plastic surgeons, nurses and technicians took on the challenge. The operation itself involved lowering the patients’ body temperatures to a point that stopped their hearts and all blood flow, making the task a race against time before irreversible consequences occurred. Ultimately, it was Ben Carson who physically separated the primary vein that connected the twins before the new veins obtained from their heart tissue were inserted.

Johns Hopkins’ head of neurosurgery, Dr. Donlin Long, was offered to make the major cut but he insisted Carson be the one to perform the action. He considered the toll this could take on the patients and the young doctor’s career if the operation was unsuccessful, but he believed that “if things [went] well, it would make his reputation, would make him famous, that people would grow up trying to emulate him.”

As Dr. Long predicted, the success of the surgery not only changed the lives of the patients and their family, but allowed Dr. Carson’s courage and excellence to shine around the world and inspire generations of future medical professionals.

Ben Carson’s story is an illustration of the success that can be had by believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals for encouragement. He is a living example that you can overcome the obstacles of life and in so doing, inspire those around you through perseverance and focus.

For more information about Dr. Ben Carson’s story, I encourage you to read or watch his biography Gifted Hands.

By: Anonymous