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Physician to the President
Appointed by The President
Incumbent Sean Conley

The Physician to the President (also known colloquially as the White House doctor) is the formal and official title of the physician who is director of the White House Medical Unit, a unit of the White House Military Office responsible for the medical needs of the President of the United States, Vice President, White House staff, and visitors.[1] The Physician to the President is also the Chief White House Physician.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

Major General Walter R. Tkach, Physician to the President, at Bethesda Naval Hospital, 1973.

Doctors who have treated the President of the United States have had a variety of titles.[3] Dr. Presley Marion Rixey, a Medical Inspector in the United States Navy, was the first individual to serve in a full-time capacity as physician to the President beginning in 1901, although the title "White House Physician" was not used until created by an act of Congress in 1928.[4]

Organization and role[edit | edit source]

The White House physician has an office inside the White House. The location of his or her medical unit plays an important role in keeping the President of the United States healthy. He or she also oversees a staff which is typically composed of five military physicians, five nurses, five physician assistants, three medics, three administrators and one IT Manager. The White House Physician is metaphorically the "shadow of the President" because he or she is always close at hand whether the President is at the White House, overseas, on the campaign trail, or aboard presidential plane Air Force One;[5] Daniel Ruge, for example, was nearby during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981, and supervised the president's immediate treatment.[6]

The Physician to the President protects the president's health and may also perform emergency surgery. The White House doctor is also responsible for providing comprehensive medical care to the members of the president's immediate family, the Vice President, and the Vice President's family. He or she may also provide medical care and attention to the more than 1.5 million visitors who tour the White House each year, as well as to international dignitaries and other guests of the President.

The medical office of the White House doctor is a "mini urgent-care center" containing a physician's office, private examination rooms, basic medications and medical supplies, and a crash cart for emergency resuscitation. Air Force One is equipped with emergency medical equipment, an operating table, and operating room lights installed at the center of the presidential plane for emergency use by the White House doctor,[5] but does not have an X-ray machine or medical laboratory equipment.[7]

Ruge resigned after Reagan's first term and called his job "vastly overrated, boring and not medically challenging". Ruge could not attend most state dinners due to lack of space. He nonetheless had to be ready for emergencies, and usually waited alone in his office wearing a tuxedo. Ruge stated that an advantage, however, was that because of the position's prestige "[a] president's physician can ask for anything, and he will get it. No doctor will refuse a request to consult". The White House physician can enter the Oval Office or Executive Residence at any time; Ruge sometimes invited experts visiting Washington to examine the president.[6]

Selection of the physician[edit | edit source]

The White House Physician is often selected personally by the President, and most White House doctors are active-duty military officers,[5] in part because most civilians would find closing and then later reopening their private practices difficult.[6]

As of March 2018, Commander Sean Conley, DO, USN, is the incumbent White House physician.[8]

White House physicians[edit | edit source]

Some of the individuals who have acted as White House physicians:

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Dr. Jackson was appointed Physician to the President on July 25, 2013.[37]
  2. Dr. Jackson was a captain at the time of his appointment,[1][38][38] but was promoted to rear admiral. The Senate confirmed his appointment on July 13, 2016.[39]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mishori, Ranit. "When The Patient Is The President." Parade. August 16, 2009.
  2. "Release of the President's Medical Exam." Office of the Press Secretary. The White House. February 28, 2010. Accessed May 12, 2010.
  3. Deppisch, p. 4.
  4. Deppisch, pp. 4, 75.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "White House Doctors: The President's Shadow." CNN.com. September 24, 2004. Accessed May 12, 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Altman, Lawrence K. "Daniel Ruge, 88, Dies." New York Times. September 6, 2005.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Thom, Krista. "White House Doctor Cares for President." The Battalion. February 14, 2006. Accessed May 9, 2010.
  8. Korade, Matt (29 April 2018). "Ronny Jackson will not return as Trump's physician, Politico reports". CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/29/politics/ronny-jackson-donald-trump-white-house-physician/index.html. Retrieved 30 April 2018. 
  9. Hedger, Brian. "White Coats in the White House: Former Presidential Physicians Reflect On Their Service." American Medical News. March 23, 2009.
  10. Levin, p. 45; Ferrell, The Dying President, p. 8; Deppisch, p. 87.
  11. Ferrell, Ill-Advised, p. 22, 27. The acronym HMD stands for "Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine".
  12. Deppisch, p. 84.
  13. Ullman, p. 198.
  14. Boone was a lieutenant commander when he began his service. He was promoted to Commander while at the White House, and President Hoover promoted him to the temporary rank of Captain. Hoover tried to have Boone's rank made permanent, but was unsuccessful. Boone did not receive any additional promotions until after he left the White House. See: Deppisch, p. 77.
  15. Boone served as Assistant Physician to presidents Harding and Coolidge prior to becoming personal physical to Hoover. See: Steely, p. 136. He served one month under Roosevelt. See: Evans, p. 41.
  16. McIntire was only a lieutenant commander when his service in the White House began, but retired as a Vice Admiral. See: Deppisch, p. 90.
  17. Graham began his service at the White House as a Colonel. McCullough, p. 53.
  18. Deppisch, p. 98; Smith, p. 676.
  19. Bagg JE (2003). "The President's physician". pp. 1–2. PMC 152826. PMID 12638662. ; "Janet G. Travell (#8.26)." A Register of Her White House Files, 1959–1964. John F. Kennedy Library. National Archives and Records Administration. No date. Accessed May 9, 2010.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "President's Physician: George Gregory Burkley." New York Times. July 20, 1963.
  21. Gilbert, Robert E. "The Political Effects of Presidential Illness: The Case of Lyndon B. Johnson." Political Psychology. 16:4 (December 1995).
  22. Altman, Lawrence K. "Johnson Skin Cancer Is Reported, But Widow and Physician Deny It." New York Times. June 26, 1977; Altman, Lawrence K. "Navy Confirms Johnson Had Surgery for Skin Cancer." New York Times. June 29, 1977.
  23. "White House Physician, Duke University Medical Center". https://archives.mc.duke.edu/blog/white-house-physician. 
  24. "Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out; James Young, M.D.". http://ourwhitehouse.org/james-young-m-d/. 
  25. "Ex-White House Physician Walter R. Tkach Dies." Washington Post. November 9, 1989; ""Major General Walter Robert Tkach." Biographies. Information. United States Air Force. No date.". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. https://archive.today/20120730054244/http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=7401.  Accessed May 9, 2010; "Walter Tkach, 72; Served as the Doctor To Three Presidents." Associated Press. November 9, 1989.
  26. Saxon, Wolfgang. "William Lukash, 66, Doctor Who Watched Over Presidents." New York Times. February 7, 1998.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Joynt, Robert J. and Toole, James F. Presidential Disability: Papers and Discussions on Inability and Disability Among U.S. Presidents. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: University of Rochester Press, 2001, p. xxxiv.
  28. "Appointment of T. Burton Smith as Physician to the President." Appointments & Nominations, January 4, 1985. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. National Archives and Records Administration. No date.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Appointment of John E. Hutton, Jr., as Physician to the President." December 10, 1986. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. National Archives and Records Administration. No date.
  30. "Lawrence C. Mohr, JR., M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P." Commission Members. National Environmental Policy Commission. 2001.
  31. Joynt and Toole, pp. xxxv, 45.
  32. Altman, Lawrence K. "Doctor at the White House Is Dismissed." New York Times. January 29, 1993.
  33. "Her Patients Were Presidents." Filipino Reporter. April 16–22, 2010.
  34. ""Brigadier General (Dr.) Richard J. Tubb." Biographies. Information. United States Air Force. No date.". Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. https://archive.today/20120718062225/http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=7993.  Accessed May 9, 2010.
  35. "Miller School Hosts Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, Physician to the U.S. President, for Surgery Grand Rounds." Press release. Miller School of Medicine. University of Miami. July 27, 2013. Accessed July 27, 2013.
  36. "George W. Bush Shows Off Levelland Hat During Trip to Africa". KCBD-TV. July 5, 2013. http://www.kcbd.com/story/22771177/george-w-bush-shows-off-levelland-hat-during-trip-to-africa. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  37. "Core Faculty: Ronny L. Jackson, MD, FAAEM". 2015. http://disasterfellowship.org/personnel/core-faculty/ronny-l-jackson/. Retrieved October 20, 2016. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 Kuhlman, Jeffrey. "The President's First Periodic Physical Exam As President." Medical Unit. The White House. February 28, 2010. Archived March 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Accessed May 9, 2010.
  39. "On the Senate Floor". July 13, 2016. Archived from the original on November 9, 2016. https://web.archive.org/web/20161109170209/http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/floor_activity/07_13_2016_Senate_Floor.htm. Retrieved October 20, 2016. 

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

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