It took a marathon 19-hour surgery to remove the bulging tumor from the top of the child's head, then meticulously piece the head back together.

But despite a "spectacularly" successful surgery, the baby died three weeks later, according to the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery, Dr. Ben Carson.

The child had languished in a nursing home "waiting to die" before Johns Hopkins doctors were made aware of the situation, and that delay had allowed the tumor to spread, Dr. Carson said Thursday during a lecture at Erlanger hospital.


* Hometown: Detroit

* Professional positions: Director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital; co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center; professor of neurological surgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

* Education: Majored in psychology at Yale; graduated from University of Michigan School of Medicine; internship in general surgery and residency in neurological surgery at Johns Hopkins.

* Career highlight: Performed the first separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head in 1987.

* The made-for-TV movie of Dr. Carson's life, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story," aired last month on TNT. He was portrayed by Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr.

"Obviously, sometimes things don't work out no matter how hard you try," he said.

But the lessons of this baby's case, included in published medical papers, would hopefully save lives in the future, he said.

"Anything that doesn't work out can still serve a useful purpose, if we look at it the right way," he said.

For Dr. Carson, who rose from poverty in inner-city Detroit to international pre-eminence as a surgeon at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, the lessons of failure are critical to success.

Detailing specific medical cases - both successful and, more often in this discussion, unsuccessful - Dr. Carson's lecture focused on what can be learned from failure and the importance of perseverance.

The event, held in Erlanger's Probasco Auditorium, was part of a lecture series sponsored by Erlanger and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga.

Dr. Carson was raised by a single mother with a third-grade education. Pushed by his mother to achieve, he eventually became the youngest department chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33. He is now also co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center and a professor of neurological surgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

After the lecture, Brainerd High School sophomore Malachi Moore said Dr. Carson's dedication was inspiring. Malachi, who is 16, said he already knows he wants to be a pediatrician.

"What I really got out of the seminar is perseverance. You can try real hard, but you're still going to fail sometimes," he said. "Basically what I got out of it is, keep going, keep trying, try more, try 100 times. ... And you're gonna help a lot of people along the way."

During a question-and-answer session following his lecture, Dr. Carson emphasized the importance of reaching out to children in the public school system.

"That, to me, is my most important legacy. I love the things that I've done in medicine, but it's been a platform from which to advocate for strong education," he said.

Dr. Carson also spoke Thursday evening at the Chattanooga Convention Center during an event for Why Know Abstinence Education. The event highlighted the organization's new name and logo.

The new name is "On Point," which spokeswoman Kathryn DeNovo said better reflects the organization's mission to encourage smart choices for young adults in all areas of life, not just when it comes to sexual behavior.