‘Promote change’ MUSC grads urged to go make a difference

Members of MUSC’s Class of 2012 gather in the halls outside of McAlister Field House as they prepare to graduate Friday.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson encouraged Medical University of South Carolina graduates to use what they learned not only to improve health care but also to make a difference in the community.

Carson addressed the graduates Friday in The Citadel’s McAlister Field House. An outdoor commencement ceremony usually is held on MUSC’s campus. But rainy weather Friday forced university officials to both move the event indoors and delay its start by two hours.

This year, 767 students graduated from the MUSC’s six colleges: graduate studies, health professions, nursing, pharmacy, dental medicine and medicine.

Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is well known for leading a team that separated conjoined twins who were joined at the back of the head. His memoir, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” was made into a movie that premiered on TNT in 2009.

People who are trained in the medical professions are perfect people to influence their communities in positive ways, Carson said. They have “an education based on knowledge and facts,” and could use that to promote change in the world. That’s much better than basing important decisions on emotions and politics, he said.

Doctors in the past were more involved in the communities in which they lived. Five of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were physicians, he said.

Carson grew up poor as a child of single mother in Detroit. But his mother pushed him to focus, study and succeed, he said. She dramatically limited how much TV he watched. And she made him write book reports and turn them in to her, even though she couldn’t read them. She didn’t allow him to become a victim, he said. “If you don’t look for excuses, you start looking for solutions.”

Khaled Moussawi, 31, who graduated with an M.D. from the College of Medicine and a Ph.D. from the College of Graduate Studies, also had some tough early years.

Moussawi, who spent the last nine years working on his two degrees, said he grew up in Lebanon during a civil war. His parents ran a bookstore, where he spent much of his time to be safe from bombing and shelling outside. He spent his time indoors reading, and a passion for learning took hold of him, he said.

While at MUSC, Moussawi studied some biological factors that lead to relapse in cocaine addiction. He begins a residency in neurology at Harvard University on June 11.

So after nine years of hard work, he has about a week off. “It’s my celebration week,” he said.