Dr. Ben Carson’s much anticipated Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech Saturday wasn’t the only speech he'd delivered in Washington over the weekend. A few hours after his speech at the Gaylord National at National Harbor, Carson spoke to several hundred medical students, pre-meds, and residents at the American Medical Student Association’s Annual Conference at the Washington Convention Center.
Dr. Ben Carson is best known in the medical community for being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins who had been joined at the back of the head, but he made political headlines and scored an invite to CPAC this year after making sharp criticisms of Washington and the Obama administration at this year’s National Prayer breakfast.
AMSA, known for its very progressive political agenda is the oldest and largest medical student association in the United States and outright supports single-payer, government-run health care. The group once was affiliated with the American Medical Association but established its independence from the AMA in an effort to raise its own voice on a variety of social justice issues including civil rights, abortion, universal health care and the United States involvement in Vietnam, a stark contrast to the CPAC crowd Dr. Carson addressed just hours earlier.
While the organization does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies, AMSA offers discounted study guide materials to medical students, boosting the organization’s membership numbers, funding and political clout, as the discounts on study guides are well worth the membership expense to apolitical medical students who may or may not agree with the organization’s strong-leftist political agenda.
Dr. Carson, a trailblazing neurosurgeon, Obamacare critic and founder of the Carson Scholars Fund was well received at the event and received a standing ovation following his speech alongside another celebrity status, rags to riches, American story, Johns Hopkins colleague Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. However, Dr. Carson who ventured into some wonky policy areas during his speech left many future doctors who had never heard of a Health Savings Account scratching their heads.
Many were unaware of Dr. Carson’s speech from the National Prayer breakfast that went viral in hours, or that Dr. Carson had just announced his retirement from medicine a few hours earlier at CPAC continuing a firestorm of rumors that he may seek political office in the future.
In a departure from his fiery, traditional talking points on political correctness, personal responsibility and hard work, Dr. Carson challenged physicians, and physicians-in-training to re-engage the medical profession that was once more active in civic and political life. Dr. Carson explained that 5 physicians signed the Declaration of Independence and that “we [doctors] need to put forth things that work for patients.” He acknowledged this “would require courage” but told students “not to be afraid to take risks by speaking out” and said that it was their “duty to protect good health care by entering the political sphere.”
Dr. Carson cited the rise of physicians entering “concierge medicine” as disappointing, but said he understood the reasoning behind their decisions given the power welded over the profession by government, big hospitals/ACOs that are buying physician practices, and third-party insurance payers. Perhaps the most direct challenge to the audience was Carson’s charge that it was physician’s duty not to spend the entirety of their medical training and career that is “subsidized by everyone” (most all medical schools are supported through tax dollars) solely “in a lab or practicing medicine 24/7.”
He warned the young audience “if you leave your medical career up to politicians, you will be in trouble.”
Dr. Carson’s most recent, best-selling book, America the Beautiful serves as his manifesto, calling all Americans to use our God-given talents to improve our lives, our communities, our nation, and our world. Time will tell if his message will be enough to resonate with voters, should he chose a political future, but his ability to stand in front of two polar opposite political groups on one Saturday goes to show that he epitomizes the courage he seeks to instill in everyone around him.
To watch Dr. Carson’s speech at CPAC in its entirety click here.