Dr. Ben Carson has been tapped by the President Elect to be the Secretary of Housing Development (HUD).
HUD, nicely summarized in the New York Times, “devotes itself to ensuring that families of low-income and modest means have access to safe homes and neighborhoods.” HUD helps people with less money get homes and is tasked with making sure that housing discrimination does not happen.
If you read Dr. Ben Carson’s recent academic publications you might think that he is the man for the job. After all in an opinion piece in 2012 in the Journal of Neurosurgery that he coauthored he cared so much about disparities that the article was in fact entitled “Disparities in Care.”
The article is a commentary on another study that identified delays in care related to pituitary adenomas (a type of tumor in the pituitary gland). Visual symptoms are a common reason to seek care with this kind of brain tumor and the longer people have symptoms before receiving care the less likely their vision will return to normal. This article identified delays in care for non whites older than 60 with symptoms.
Carson’s editorial points out that “Differences in diagnosis rate and treatment application based on age, sex, geographic location, and race have been now well documented” and that “health care disparities” have “existed in the US for decades.” Furthermore the article states that it is quite right that the US Department of Health and Humans Services officially acknowledges these health care disparities and that there are mandates to eliminate them. The article also points out that the reasons for disparities in care and outcomes may be complex and include a variety of factors including financial, geographic, overt racial discrimination, fear of discrimination by patients, or even biologic due to genetics. All in all the piece is a thoughtful discussion on how neurosurgeons should be aware that discrimination based on age, sex, and race can impact when patients received medical care as well as the quality of that care and that neurosurgeons should do their “best” to eliminate these disparities.
If all you knew about Ben Carson was that article you might say, “Well, sounds like he might do a great job at HUD!” Except that’s about the only cogent thing related to policy that bears Ben Carson’s name. Carson has called poverty a “choice.” In case you were wondering that concept was left out of his opinion piece for the Journal of Neurosurgery.
Carson has also has called fair housing a “mandated social-engineering” scheme and communism, so much for a roof to recover from your brain surgery or living anywhere near a decent clinic or hospital – that is if you happen to make the choice to be poor. If you made the choice to be wealthy then you are ok!
Carson also said, “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” at the Values Voter Summit. And yet the Affordable Care Act has been shown to improve access to health care for minorities, something Carson stated he thought was a good idea and worthy goal for neurosurgeons back in 2012.
It’s all very hypocritical. It appears as if Carson tells the public one thing, but wants to look like benevolent, thoughtful surgeon to his peers.