Go back to neurosurgery, Dr. Carson

Op-ed: Dr. Ben Carson saved my life. He should drop out of the race and return to neurosurgery.

When I was 4 months old, Dr. Ben Carson's gifted hands saved my life.

I was born with a 1-in-2,000 syndrome known as craniosynostosis (kray-nee-o-sin-os-TOE-sis). To understand the complication, it's best to imagine a normal baby, just born in the last few months. His skull isn't one solid piece of bone; instead, he has soft spots between his bones, which allow his skull to expand outward as his brain grows. His soft spots eventually close as his brain finishes forming, and his skull becomes a solid piece of bone.

In babies who suffer from my defect, however, some of the soft spots close too early, before the brain is done forming. This means the skull can't expand out like a balloon as it should, and instead grows abnormally to compensate for the rapidly growing brain underneath. In me, this meant growth in the forehead — in pictures from those early months, it looks like an alien is trying to force its way out of the space between my eyebrows and hairline.

The complications from leaving the syndrome untreated vary. Dr. Carson told my parents my brain would've been damaged — not majorly, but enough to significantly lower my intelligence.

Thanks to Dr. Carson's skill, the surgery was a success. Since then, I've thanked him in every way I could. In my follow-up visits I brought him hand-drawn crayon pictures. One birthday, I asked for donations to Johns Hopkins Children's Center in lieu of normal gifts. The man changed my life, and I figured giving back in these small ways was the least I could do. And then, this election cycle, another chance presented itself.

But rather than wearing a Carson 2016 pin, I instead argue that Dr. Carson ought to set aside his foolish presidential campaign.

The Ben Carson from his autobiographies — the man who wrote a book report every day — would have wanted me to make my argument using school smarts. I'm a senior economics major, so I think about his presidential campaign using two key economic ideas: comparative advantage and opportunity cost.

The idea of comparative advantage dictates that a neurosurgeon of Dr. Carson's caliber should never be mowing his own lawn. That's because when choosing between two jobs, you ought to do the job with the lowest cost. And by cost, I mean opportunity cost — the cost of not doing the other job. The opportunity cost of Dr. Carson skipping out on mowing his own lawn to perform surgery, for example, is just the small fee he pays the local high school kid to mow it instead. That's a fairly small opportunity cost.

The opportunity cost of Dr. Carson skipping surgery to mow his lawn, on the other hand, is immense. Here, we aren't talking about a small fee — instead, it's lives left unsaved, diseases left uncured, craniosynostosis cases left untreated.

Even if Dr. Carson had enough time in his day to both mow his lawn and perform surgery, he ought to spend all his time performing surgery, because every second he spends mowing his lawn is one less second he spends in the halls of Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Carson has a slightly harder choice now. Paying a kid to mow your lawn is one thing, but dropping out of a presidential campaign is a big deal.

Comparative advantage, however, makes the decision easier. If the polls are any indication, Dr. Carson is not a strong politician, at least not right now. In a campaign with so many other options, then, the opportunity cost of Dr. Carson dropping out of the race is incredibly small — just one less politician who scores "Pants On Fire" on Politifact. Of course, he shouldn't just drop out to return to retirement; he should go back to medicine. He's clearly got a lot left to offer.

Every day he spends on his campaign bus is another pair of conjoined twins who aren't treated by the best neurosurgeon in the world. Another day where a new mother, like my own 22 years ago, cannot be comforted by his calm demeanor in pre-surgery meetings.

Rather than running a failed campaign, Dr. Carson ought to take off the American flag pin and put his unique skills back into medicine where they are needed. There are plenty of babies who, like I once did, need his gifted hands.

Matthew Flyr is a student at St. Mary's College of Maryland; his email is mflyr@smcm.edu.

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