Dr. Carson is known for making medical history in 1987 with the first successful separation of craniopagus twins, among many other magnificent achievements. He is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland, in the USA. In 1984, he was named Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, a position he still holds today.

Dr. Carson has authored more than 100 neurosurgical publications, and has been awarded more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush in 2008.

Dr. Carson has written five best-selling books, including Gifted Hands, after which a film of his life has been named. Larry Evans was privileged to speak with him about his views on success and service to others.

She felt that you could always influence what was happening in your life, and that you didn’t have to be a victim."


LRE:   In your book, Gifted Hands, you described some pretty difficult years you had as you were growing up. Yet, it seems these tough times developed a sense of resiliency instead of an attitude of giving up. Why?

BSC:   Well, I call it fire in the belly. As I read about people’s accomplishments, it became very clear to me that you actually get to make a choice as to what your lifestyle is. And it’s based on the amount of time and energy you’re willing to put into the pursuit of your goal. Once I knew that, it was going to be pretty hard to stop me because I had the drive. I recognized that I was actually in more control of my future than anybody else. I also saw in my mother an example of someone willing to work hard.   She felt that you could always influence what was happening in your life, and that you didn’t have to be a victim. Seeing that in her over a long period of time had a profound influence on both my brother and me.

LRE:   You have acknowledged being very angry at a stage in your life. How would you encourage youth today who are angry about their circumstances?

BSC:   I would tell them this: “Let it be about somebody else.” I realized that my anger came because I always thought it was about me—something done to me or taken from me. God gave me wisdom to see through that and when I did, I no longer allowed myself to be a puppet with many masters. It was no longer about me.

LRE:   You have received national and international recognition. Is there a danger in being so well known?

BSC:   There can be. It’s easy to begin to believe that you’re quite great. In my case, however, I’ve had so many incredible outcomes where I know that it just couldn’t have been me. It’s something I can’t do. But I know Who can! Allowing yourself to be used by God opens up an enormous number of opportunities for you as well as for those being influenced by you. For people of achievement there’s the natural tendency toward self-aggrandizement. Once you go down that path, then your usefulness to others is diminished.

LRE:   Are you saying that the amount of service can be limited by these personal detours?

BSC:   Exactly. And if we get in the way, we can block the channel from which blessings flow into our own lives and from us into the lives of others. Have there been times when I’ve struggled with it myself? Absolutely. And then I have to check myself. And I check myself on a daily basis and say, “Wait a minute. Is this about you, or is it about God?” And a lot of times that changes my course.

LRE:   Many scientists, struggle with the notion of faith and God. As a Christian physician-scientist, how do you relate faith and science?

BSC:   I want people to recognize that there are a lot of different ways to interpret data. The blatant statement that anyone who believes that God created us cannot be scientific really has no basis in fact. How do you look at the ability of the species to change within itself? Some say this is clear-cut evidence of evolution, and I would say it’s clear-cut evidence of a Creator who gave His creatures the ability to adapt to the environment. Otherwise He'd have to to start over every few weeks! It's not a problem, it's a sign of intelligence. Therefore, it depends on where you want to place your faith. I choose to place my faith in God as Creator. Some choose to place their faith in science, when sometimes that science has only progressed as far as the level of speculation and conjecture.

LRE:   So many of your accomplishments have come from rather unique perspectives about life and service. How would you describe success?

BSC:   I would describe it as taking the talents that God has given you, developing them, multiplying them, and using them to uplift others.

LRE:   Many seem to have talents but circumstances of life seem to hinder their development and therefore their influence.

BSC:   Absolutely. And one of the things that had a profound effect on me as a youngster was the story of Joseph in the Bible. Here was a young man, who had a fairly big ego, admittedly, but he ended up being sold into slavery by his own brothers. And he didn’t allow that to make him bitter or to become a victim. He just said, “If I’m going to be a slave, I’ll be the best slave there is!” And he ends up as the overseer of Potiphar’s household, captain of the Egyptian guard, a very responsible position. And then Potiphar’s wife says, “Wow, this is a good-looking guy. I’m going to deal with him!” But he has values. And because of his values and principles, he ends up in jail. He doesn’t say, “Wait a minute. Here I am doing all the right stuff, and I end up in jail. Poor me. I’m a victim. This is not fair.” No, he says, “If I’m going to be a prisoner, I’ll be the best prisoner there is.” And he ends up with a responsible position in the prison, interprets dreams, and ends up as the governor of the most powerful nation in the world. What an amazing story! What that said to me is this: “It really doesn’t matter where you are or what your circumstances are, you need to make the best of that situation. And eventually you will benefit from that situation.” You know, as the Bible says, “All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called for His purposes.” I believe that.

LRE:   Where does God fit into your idea of service for others? Christians aren’t the only ones who have talents. Atheists also have talents and do good. What makes your service different from theirs?

BSC:   Well, I’m not sure that in all cases the outcome is necessarily different. However, I will say that there have been numerous very difficult or virtually impossible situations when I have called upon God and He has responded in a way that would perhaps be difficult for an atheist to understand. I remember the case of a young girl who essentially died on the operating room table. Her brain herniated out, and she was fixed and dilated. Three days later the PICU staff (pediatric intensive care unit) said, “We need to turn off the ventilator. We need this bed.” And I said, “Give it one more day.” And I just prayed. I said, “Lord, You’ve got to understand. This is a child of an atheist woman and this child is the only thing in her life. If you could just somehow bring this child back, it could have a profound effect.” The next morning, when we went to turn off the respirator, she moved her little finger. And that was the beginning of her recovery. She eventually walked out of the hospital. I saw that mother years later. She said, “Do you remember me?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “Remember I was an atheist?” "I remember," I said. She continued, “I’m no longer an atheist. I’m a Christian, and I’m a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church.”

LRE:   If you were to be remembered for one thing for your life, what would it be?

BSC:   I would hope that it would be that I was someone who got people to understand that the person who has most to do with what happens to them is them. They get to make choices. They don’t have to be victims. Don’t blame others. As my mother used to always say, “You have yourself to blame.” She always quoted that poem when we came up with an excuse.

LRE:   How do you see stewardship impacting the life of a Christian?

BSC:   Well, I think it boils down to commitment. What are you committed to? And I would like to think that I’m committed to God. That is the primary thing in my life. As it says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” And I’ve found that exactly to be the case. You don’t have to look for this prize, or this position, or whatever. All you have to do is make sure that your relationship with God is correct. Recognize that He loves you. I mean, look at what He was willing to do for us! So, needless to say, any good thing that He can do in your life, if you’re committed to Him, He’s going to do it.

LRE:   From what I can tell your influence and ministry are not confined to the surgical suite.

BSC:   Definitely not!

Benjamin S. Carson