Dr. Benjamin Carson, a prominent neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, will speak a week from today as the keynote speaker for the University of Michigan”s Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

Carson”s speech at 10 a.m. Monday in Hill Auditorium is the main event of the symposium, which is the largest at any university nationwide. Events began last week and will continue through February, although most are scheduled for next Sunday and Monday, when classes are canceled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Damon Williams, one of the chief organizers of the symposium, explained the selection committee chose Carson for a variety of reasons.

“Dr. Carson was selected because he is an alumnus of the Medical School, he”s from Detroit, he is probably one of the top five neurosurgeons in the world (and) he has also been lauded tremendously for his commitment to the issues of social justice, urban education, a lot of the issues and values that are consistent with the work of Dr. King,” Williams said.

In addition to his success in the medical profession, Carson has taken considerable effort to encourage underprivileged and minority children to rise above impoverished surroundings. Carson has traveled around the world to convince others to use their innate talents to overcome poverty and with his wife co-founded the Carson Scholars Fund, which provides educational grants to students who demonstrate remarkable academic and humanitarian accomplishments.

Carson has strived to help underprivileged youths because he had similar disadvantages during his childhood. He described in a written statement his experience in his mostly white elementary school as that of a “fifth-grade class dummy and a child who, taunted by classmates and ignored by teachers, was convinced of his own stupidity and that being African-American meant the world was stacked against him.”

To encourage Carson”s education, his mother insisted that each of her sons read at least two books a week and write a report on each of them. Carson discovered several years later that his mother could not read the reports because she had only a third-grade education. But his mother”s encouragement drove him to obtain a scholarship to Yale University and then the University of Michigan”s Medical School.

As the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, Carson has enjoyed much success, twice leading medical teams that separated conjoined twins connected at the head. Carson has also received many honors and awards, including more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees.

Dr. John Freeman, one of Carson”s colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Neurology, also expressed his admiration for Carson”s attempt to help disadvantaged children through his scholarship fund and many motivational speeches across the nation.

“He is one of the best neurosurgeons I know,” Freeman said. “He is one of the best people I know. In addition to his neurological skills, he devotes an unbelievable amount of time to underprivileged children.”

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