Hopkins' Carson to get Medal of Freedom

June 12, 2008|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,Sun reporter

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, who became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33 and founded a scholarship fund to promote academic achievement, will receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House said yesterday.

Carson's "groundbreaking contributions to medicine and his inspiring efforts to help America's youth fulfill their potential have strengthened our nation," the White House said in a statement announcing the latest recipients of the nation's highest civilian award.

Also receiving a medal will be Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an immunologist who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Rockville. Fauci's research on AIDS and HIV has "brought hope and healing to millions around the world," the White House said.

Carson, 56, a Detroit native, was raised in a poor single-parent family after his parents separated when his mother - who wed at the age of 13 - learned that her husband was a bigamist.

"It was mandatory that [brother] Curtis and I read books and submit written book reports on a weekly basis," Carson wrote in an opinion piece published in The Sun last month. "We never knew that our mother had only a third-grade education, and it never stopped her from demanding the best from us."

Carson joined Hopkins after studying at Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School. He became the hospital's youngest director of a major department. In 1987, he led a team of 70 medical professionals through a 17-hour operation to separate conjoined twins.

He and his wife, Candy, founded the Carson Scholars Fund to grant scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Giving out 90 cents of every dollar received, the fund has distributed 3,400 scholarships to students in 26 states and jurisdictions since its founding in 1994, according to carsonscholars.org.

President Bush named him to the President's Council on Bioethics in 2004.

Fauci, a Brooklyn native and graduate of Cornell University Medical College, joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 and has been there since. He is one of the leading forces behind Bush's $15 billion AIDS relief program for Africa and the Caribbean.

"The two major excuses for not getting drugs to developing nations such as those in sub-Saharan Africa were that the drugs were too expensive and you could not logistically get them to people in rural areas ," Fauci said in an interview published last spring in the Weill Cornell Medicine magazine. "At the request of President George W. Bush, I went to Africa; I came back and said, 'It can be done.'"

The medals will be awarded during a White House ceremony June 19.

Other recipients this year are the late Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress; retired Marine Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami and secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration; and Laurence H. Silberman, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and co-chairman of the Iraq Intelligence Commission.


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