There was something about going to the hospital that fascinated Dr. Ben Carson as a child.
He'd hear the names of doctors being called to the operating room and imagined his name called out over the loudspeaker.
"Now we have beepers, and I still don't hear it," Dr. Carson said.
The director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and author of three books was the keynote speaker Monday at the 17th annual Steak and Burger Dinner to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Augusta.
Growing up in tenements in Detroit and Boston, Dr. Carson could have had plenty of excuses why he couldn't achieve his goal of becoming a doctor. He lived in an area where drug dealers were children's friends because they handed out candy.
His mother was one of 24 children and was married at age 13. His father left his young wife, who had only a third-grade education, to raise her two sons alone.
"With all the difficulties she had, she never felt sorry for herself. The problem was she never felt sorry for us either," Dr. Carson said. "If someone doesn't accept your excuses, pretty soon you stop looking for excuses and look for solutions."
But Dr. Carson didn't always excel in academics. In elementary school, he didn't do well in his classes. His mother, not knowing what to do, prayed that God would give her a way to change that.
From then on the television was on only a few hours a week and Dr. Carson and his brother were required to spend their time reading books and writing two book reports a week.
"She couldn't read them, but we didn't know that," he said.
Yet within the pages of the books, Dr. Carson discovered, "I could go anywhere and be anybody."
He said he went from worst in his fifth-grade class to the best in his seventh-grade class.
He encouraged those attending the fund-raiser to seek education and knowledge.
"The brain can process 2 million bits of information in a second," he said. "Can you imagine what your brain is capable of when you put your mind to it?"