REPORTER: Dr. Keith Black worked hard to follow his dreams to become a leader in brain research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
KEITH BLACK: After my first course in the anatomy of the brain, in the biology and chemistry of the brain, I fell in love with the way the brain works, what it does. This ability allows us to be conscious, to create, to see, to hear, to speak. I also realized I had a love to work with patients and I had a love for working with my hands. So, the combination of wanting to know more about the brain, wanting to do research on the brain, wanting to work with one’s hands—where all of those things meet is in the field of brain surgery. And once I realized that, I knew that brain surgery was the only field for me.
REPORTER: Though medicine was a challenging dream, Keith always counted his blessings.
KEITH BLACK: I came from, I think, in some ways, a disadvantaged and very modest background and I grew up in a segregated town in Alabama. I did not go to an integrated school until I was in the fifth grade.
But, in some ways, I was in a very advantaged environment because I had two parents who were very nurturing. They were educators and they realized the value of education and hard work and focus. They were able to confer those qualities and traits to my brother and I. It was sort of like “A Tale of Two Cities”—the best of times and the worst of times. With a measure of focus, hard work, and luck you can work yourself through almost any situation.
It’s a lifetime of learning because when you graduate from medical school, when you finish your residency, you don’t stop learning. So, every day there’s something new to experience. The way I do brain surgery now is totally different than we did five years ago. To be a part of that change, to be a part of that growth, and to help drive that growth is very exciting. Every day has the opportunity to present another surprise, another opportunity to learn something new, another opportunity to make a difference.