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If you like Ben Carson's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Keith Black,
Denton Cooley,
Paul Farmer,
Coretta Scott King,
Wendy Kopp,
John Lewis,
Rosa Parks,
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Thomas Starzl,
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and Oprah Winfrey

Ben Carson can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Ben Carson also appears in the videos:
The Health of America: Individual Responsibility
The Arts, Sciences & Creativity
Advocacy and Citizenship: Speaking Out for Others

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Ben Carson in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
The Power of Words

Related Links:
Carson Scholars
Johns Hopkins

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Benjamin Carson
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Benjamin Carson Interview (page: 8 / 8)

Pediatric Neurosurgeon

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  Benjamin Carson

What is the next great challenge for you?

Benjamin Carson: Well, there are a couple of big challenges for me right now. One is helping to turn around our young people, helping them to understand how important it is to achieve intellectually, which is why we started our scholarship program, and we start giving scholarships in the fourth grade for superior academic performance and humanitarian qualities.

What is the nature of the scholarship?

Benjamin Carson Interview Photo
Benjamin Carson: It's called a Carson Scholars Fund, and it's done on a school by school basis throughout Maryland, Delaware, D.C. and Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Santa Ana, California. We're moving into Michigan and Georgia this next year. Hopefully, we'll eventually go across the nation. But, for a child to qualify, they have to have at least a 3.75 grade point average on a four point scale, and have demonstrated significant humanitarian qualities, more than just the six weeks before the application process.

What we are trying to do is establish our leaders for tomorrow. Most scholarship programs concentrate on children when they're in the 11th or 12th grade. It's really too late, and you've missed the boat on a lot of them. But if you can get them stimulated early on, boy, they become world beaters. Not only that, the other kids are saying, "You're in the fifth grade and you got a scholarship," and they get really interested. Many teachers have told us that the grade point average has gone up a whole point in their classrooms because they have a scholar there and that school gets a big trophy, every bit as impressive as any sports trophy you've ever seen.

They go to a banquet. They get a statement each year in terms of how much their money is worth, because it is invested on their behalf, and they get it when they go to college. They can win year after year, if they're good enough. So they can accumulate quite a lot of money. We've started reading programs in schools, where kids go into a special reading room, and they actually get certificates for reading. They accumulate these and then they can turn them in for a boombox or whatever it is that they want. It really gets them interested in reading, and that will have a profound effect, in and of itself. The other big challenge for me is healthcare, which has become incredibly frustrating.

In a way, it's kid of ironic because I grew up in dire poverty. I said, "I can make myself into anything I want to be. I think I'll become a brain surgeon and I want to be one of the best brain surgeons that ever lived." And, then when I got there, I found out that it wasn't so great because there was all this managed care stuff, and it no longer paid to be good. It only paid to be cheap. And, then we have the situation where there's so many families that would come and they would want your services, but the hospital doesn't accept their insurance, or just all kinds of horrible things. So, it became incredibly frustrating, and I know so many of my colleagues have just quit, or just don't want to deal with it. But I'm not a quitter. So, my next project is something we've just started, the Benevolent Endowment Network fund, in which we are creating a medical endowment which will help to supplement people's healthcare. So, that if their insurance is not such that they could come to a place like Johns Hopkins, the fund kicks in and allows them to be able to come and be treated.

Some people don't have healthcare. Like last summer, a little boy from Africa with a very complex brain tumor, and I said, "Of course, I will treat him," and then I was told, "No, you can't treat him because even though you can give your services away, you can't give away everybody else's". And, I understand that because if everybody was like me, the hospital would have been bankrupt a long time ago.

Benjamin Carson Interview Photo
But by creating this fund with an endowment, and working only off the endowment, we don't keep throwing good money after bad money, and as the endowment builds, we can treat more and more and more people. So I'm going to start if off in pediatric neurosurgery, expand it to all of neurosurgery, and eventually try to create an endowment large enough so that the entire hospital is covered, and demonstrate that it is something that works very well, so that other institutions will start doing it.

Our population is getting older and older, and it's costing us more and more money. We spend one in seven dollars in our economy on healthcare. If we were to be wise about it, we would take ten percent of that amount each year and put it into an endowment. In the course of ten to 20 years, we will have built up an endowment that was big enough to take care of virtually everybody in the country. We need to start thinking that way, because otherwise we're just going to be throwing away money.

Was it disappointing to you when President Clinton's healthcare plan didn't work?

Benjamin Carson: It was disappointing to me to see President Clinton's healthcare plan. It was a horrible healthcare plan. It wasn't his plan; it was actually his wife's plan. They didn't consult with a lot of people who were actually practicing medicine. It sort of started out with the premise that all doctors are criminals and then built from there, which is far from the truth. It just built these incredible bureaucracies. There are very logical ways to take care of healthcare. For instance, using computers to do all billing and collections, as opposed to these mounds and mounds of papers and mountains of people to push them around.

We've gotten to a situation where more of each healthcare dollar goes to pay administrative costs than goes to pay professional fees, by almost a two to one margin, and it continues to grow out of proportion. And, we've got so many costs involved in giving healthcare now that it's totally ridiculous. The facilitator -- the middle man that came in to facilitate the doctor-patient relationship -- has become the principal entity, and the doctor-patient relationship is there to support it, and the whole thing is turned upside down. And if we could inject a little bit of logic back into the system, I think it would be a tremendous thing, and there are a lot of ideas that I've had for doing that, which I wrote about in my last book, which many people have written to me and said, "Why isn't this in the Congress?"

Which book is that?

Benjamin Carson: The Big Picture.

What are you most proud of, Dr. Carson?

Benjamin Carson: The thing that I am probably the most proud of is not all the medical accomplishments or honorary degrees or various boards and societies. I'm most proud of the 100,000-plus letters that I have from young people, throughout America and around the world, whose lives have been changed by reading one of my books, or seeing me on television, or an interview in a magazine, and recognizing that they have the ability to define their own lives. If that's the legacy that I leave, I'll be very happy.

A great legacy. Thank you, Dr. Carson. It's been a pleasure.

Thank you.

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This page last revised on Apr 18, 2012 20:39 EDT
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