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Endowed Professorship Honors Ben Carson, M.D.

May 29, 2008
Benjamin Carson

Benjamin S. Carson, M.D., a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and best-selling author whose personal story of success against overwhelming odds has inspired thousands, is the inaugural recipient of a professorship endowed by notable philanthropists and supporters of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., and Dr. Evelyn Spiro, R.N., Professorship in Pediatric Neurosurgery was awarded in a dedication ceremony on  May 29.

 "I am delighted that my name will now forever be associated with Johns Hopkins," says Carson. "I do not think I could have had such a wonderful career anywhere else."

Carson has been director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center since 1984, when he became the youngest ever appointed to this academic level at Johns Hopkins. He is also a professor in the departments of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Only the 11th African American to be board certified in neurosurgery in the United States, Carson is probably best known for his rise from the underprivileged streets of Detroit and for his participation in the surgical separation of five sets of craniopagus conjoined twins (twins joined at the head), including pairs operated on in 1987, 1994, 1997, 2004; and for the historic separation of adult conjoined twins Laleh and Ladan Bijani in 2003.

The professorship is named for Carson and for Evelyn Spiro, a nurse and honorary Ph.D., who along with her husband, Donald, are principal donors for this chair. The Spiros have generously supported facilities and programs for students, faculty, and staff throughout the world, both as individuals, as well as through the Donald and Evelyn Spiro Foundation. The Spiros’ generosity is extensive but began at Johns Hopkins Medicine with The Johns Hopkins Hospital Spiro Nursing Scholars Program, a summer course for nursing students from the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing at their alma mater, Wagner College in New York.

"Like so many, I have been inspired by his story for quite some time," says Evelyn Spiro. "I am honored to support amazing achievements at Johns Hopkins in his name."

Ernest Bates, M.D., also a principal donor, was one of the first three African Americans to be board certified in neurosurgery in the U.S. and in 1958, was the first African American to graduate from Johns Hopkins University Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, in his case with a B.A. in biology. Bates earned his medical degree from the University of Rochester in 1962 and completed his residency in neurosurgery at University of California, San Francisco in 1971. In 1977, he founded American Shared Hospital Services, a publicly traded healthcare company, and today is chairman and CEO. Bates is Emeritus Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Johns Hopkins University and serves on the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Advisory Board and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Advisory Board.

A long time proponent of a Carson professorship, Bates is particularly pleased to see this come to fruition. "Ben has royally earned this academic honor," says Bates. "What I admire is that he has done it the old-fashioned way - through attention to detail, a love of knowledge and the drive to be the very best."

Carson’s personal story has been the subject of numerous articles and film biographies, but was first chronicled in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, The Ben Carson Story, published in 1990.

Henry Brem, the Harvey Cushing Professor and Director of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins says the endowed professorship will allow Carson’s groundbreaking work on behalf of children to be remembered by future generations. "I have worked with him in the operating room," says Brem. "So I can attest to the fact that Ben Carson does, indeed, have incredibly gifted hands. But more than that, he possesses a gifted heart."

Endowed professorships are a principal means of attracting and retaining top-level faculty and academic leaders by supporting their research, teaching and clinical work, according to Edward D. Miller, M.D., The Frances Watt Baker and Lenox D. Baker Jr. Dean of the Medical Faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "This is a professorship that is long overdue," says Miller. "Ben is a vital part of the Hopkins community. His work, both professionally and personally, has always been a source of inspiration."

Founded in 1912 as the children's hospital at Johns Hopkins, the Johns Hopkins Children's Center offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country, with more than 92,000 patient visits and nearly 9,000 admissions each year. The Johns Hopkins Children's Center is Maryland's largest children's hospital and the only state-designated Trauma Service and Burn Unit for pediatric patients. It has recognized Centers of Excellence in dozens of pediatric subspecialties, including allergy, cardiology, cystic fibrosis, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, neurosurgery, oncology, pulmonary, and transplant. For more information, visit www.hopkinschildrens.org.