President-elect Donald Trump has announced that his formal primary rival, the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, will serve as his Housing and Urban Development secretary. With no experience in government or housing policy, Carson previously expressed doubts about serving in Trump’s administration. But he will now oversee an agency with a $47 billion budget tasked with improving American cities. Here’s what experience Carson brings to the job.
- In 1987, Carson was the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head. He was also the first to successfully perform intrauterine surgery. And at the age of 33, Carson was appointed the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, becoming the youngest-ever head of a major division at a hospital.
- Carson liked to listen to classical music while operating. He says it kept him calm.
- Before retirement, Carson was reported to have performed over 300 surgeries a year, almost three times the average of any neurosurgeon.
- He is a Seventh Day Adventist. He prayed before every surgery he performed.
- He grew up in Detroit, the son of a single mother. During the presidential campaign, he took Trump on a tour of his childhood home and other low-income neighborhoods around Detroit. The two reportedly discussed how to revitalize inner cities.
- When he was 14, Carson blamed his violent temper when he tried to stab a classmate, but the boy was uninjured when his belt buckle blocked the knife.
- Carson has written six bestselling books, including his autobiography, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story," which inspired a film of the same name starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
- Carson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. He is currently in remission.
- In 2008, he was recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It's the highest award given to a civilian. Carson was reportedly notified he was a recipient of the award while performing a seven-hour surgery.
- He co-founded the Benevolent Endowment Network (BEN) which funds the medical expenses of pediatric neurosurgery patients in need.
- He met his wife Candy while they were both students at Yale University. They have three children.
- Carson played himself in the 2003 movie "Stuck on You," a comedy about conjoined twins starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.
- For years, Carson insisted he was a member of no political party. He changed his party affiliation from Independent to Republican in 2014, and ran against Donald Trump in this year’s presidential primaries.
- He is a recipient of the Library of Congress' "Living Legend" award.
- He rose to conservative prominence after his 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast where he criticized President Obama's health care policies while the president sat only feet away.
- Carson apologized after saying that homosexuality is a choice because men often go to prison straight and come out gay.
Photo: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to supporters at a rally in Phoenix. [flickr / Gage Skidmore]