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Monday, May 9, 2011

Dr. Ben Carson: "Gifted Hands" & Rare Opportunities


I think today I had one of the most inspired moments of my teaching career.  Today, the 3rd--5th grade Eagle Cove School students went to The Johns Hopkins University to have a private audience with two amazing surgeons: Dr. Harold Fox (Chairman of Gynecology & Obstetrics) & Dr. Ben Carson (Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery).

The occasion: supreme luck on our part!  

Gifted Hands, Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story (ZonderKidz Biography)Having read Dr. Carson's biography Gifted Hands, Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story (by Gregg Lewis & Deborah Shaw Lewis) last year as a read-aloud in my class, I knew that this book would become an annual read-aloud staple for my 3rd grade class.  Dr. Carson's story of how he went (in his words) from "class dummy" to pediatric neurosurgeon through both the faith in his mother and her push for him to excel in reading is inspirational on many fronts.  This year too, in-class we watched the Cuba Gooding Jr. movie by the same name: Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (available to rent through http://www.netflix.com/).  If you haven't had a chance to read or see either one, chose one, do it...and do it soon!  A purely amazing, phenomenal story of a true hero!!

So, back to the original question:  How did we find ourselves in such a rare opportunity, today?

As luck would have it, Dr. Fox has a close connection to one of my third graders.  As conversations of school events were shared, Dr. Fox was able to work some magic and arrange for us to meet with him for lunch at Johns Hopkins today, and sneak some moments from Dr. Carson's lunch before he started on rounds.

 How privileged were we, to be able to spend about a half hour with each of these fine gentlemen, to bend their ears with a battalion of student-led GOOD questions?!?  Between them both, they've seen and assisted with approximately 20,000 patients!  I can't get past how touched I was by both of their generosities, for Dr. Fox to clear his schedule, and for Dr. Carson (who's schedule was quite tight), who gave us 30 minutes of his undivided time.  

As I told my kids, one of the greatest gifts ever is the gift of time.  

Here is a snippet I found on YouTube that gives you a flavor of the content that Dr. Carson discussed with us.  No, it was not our exact experience today, but the sentiment, flavor, humbleness, and humor (as well as many similar comments) can be savored here with this video.
Some of my favorite take-aways from the day (paraphrased, of course, as I can't write that fast, but quoted as closely as I could, my hand flying trying to capture all the wisdom!)

From Dr. Carson~
  • "In 5th grade, I didn't think that I was smart...but my mother did!  She assigned both my brother and I to turn off the TV, read two books a week, and submit a written book report.  I thought it was about the same as child abuse.  But I was transformed by reading.... Reading turned me around and gave me my confidence."
  • "We are going to need very bright young people to help run our nation one day.  People with intellectual capability.  People who are caring and know how to take care of  people.  It makes all the difference in the world.  People who study & understand history to rediscover & remember how we as a country became so great, so quickly....As a country, we've gotten bogged down lately, and forgotten what it takes to be great.
  • One of my favorite questions from the kids was "What does it feel like to be a famous neurosurgeon & author?"  Dr. Carson's response:  "It feels no different than it does standing here and speaking to you.  You need perspective and to see the big picture.  I'm just a small part of the big picture.  I believe good things happen as a result of God's hand [as he's very strong in his faith] and I cannot alone claim the fame as purely mine." 

From Dr. Fox~
  •  "I thought I'd go into engineering, as that was what my dad did.  However, after volunteering in a hospital as a late teen, I found my love.  Eventually you will find something you really like and enjoy.  If you are happy in what you do, you are happy in life."
  • "We all make mistakes.  We don't intend to, but we are human and we do.  Being a surgeon requires you to be able to think on your feet and fix as you go as you don't know what issues you may find once you are inside. As you are encountering the issues that come up, you do everything you can to find the solutions and fix what you can."  
As a "grown-up," I continue to marvel at this experience today.  I agree with Dr. CarsonThe brain is an amazing human structure capable of so much.  It houses and holds who we are, our personality, and it makes it possible to do so many unique and different things.  It gives our smile the tilted smirk, places the glint in our eye, holds our mischief, and houses our cleverness.  It is responsible for so many facets of making each one of us "us!"  It has a power that we should hold in reverence.  

Thank you Dr. Fox and Dr. Carson for giving us the gift of time, and the gift of you.

For The Johns Hopkins Bios on these two amazing men, go to:
To learn even more about Dr. Ben Carson, go to http://carsonscholars.org/content/dr-ben-carson/think-big.
Video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuYmhJUeoBE (Uploaded to YouTube by on Dec 22, 2007)

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