Dr. Ben Carson is retiring from neurosurgery on the 36th anniversary of the beginning of his historic career. Joining Johns Hopkins Hospital on July 1, Dr. Carson rose from adult neurosurgery resident to become director of pediatric neurosurgery. Along the way, he pioneered many innovative procedures and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts. I spoke with the good doctor recently about his career and plans.
Q: What was your last day like?
A: Many people saying goodbye, securing and giving things to people. One last patient visit and, at the end of day, [there] was a speaking engagement, which is now my new life.
Q: How will your retirement impact your family life now, given that you have been so busy for the past 36 years?
A: I hope it means that as Carson grandchildren begin to pop up, I can spend more time with them because they are so cute (laughs). But I also see the entire nation as part of my family, and it is my open prayer that we can have a true family reunion.
Q: Most people hate giving public speeches, yet here you are embarking on a second career in a very publicly scrutinized field. What drew you to speaking engagements?
A: Having the ability to impact the thought processes of millions of Americans and particularly help them understand the role that they play in the governance of a country that was designed to be for, of and by the people.
Q: What did you enjoy most about your career in medicine?
A: The opportunity to intervene in frequently desperate situations and, through the grace of God, to enhance people’s lives. Also, to be a role model that encourages people, not only in America but throughout the world, who work hard in the development of their God-given talents and to aim high in terms of their lifetime ambitions.
Q: Are you going to miss practicing medicine?
A: I will still be involved in medicine, giving talks and lectures. But I will particularly miss medicine the way it used to be — in the days when you had much more autonomy and had the ability to treat anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. You could concentrate simply on rectifying the situation. I definitely will not miss all the bureaucracy and regulations that have entered medicine now.
Q: Do you think, given the recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding affirmative action and voting rights, that you would have been the success you are today if affirmative action had not been the law of the land?
A: I always say that people who are highly successful generally owe that success to their mindset. Conversely, people generally not successful are also that way because of a mindset.
You can take a highly successful individual — take everything from them, put them in a terrible environment and, in a matter of a year or two, they will be successful again and will have extracted themselves from that environment. Someone who has the opposite mindset can be given everything and will progressively lose it.