Physician to the President
- This is about the physician to the President of the United States. For the book by the former White House physician Connie Mariano, see The White House Doctor.
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. The Physician to the President is also the Chief White House Physician.
Doctors who have treated the President of the United States have had a variety of titles. 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.
Organization and role
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. 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, but does not have an X-ray machine or medical laboratory equipment.
The position is not necessarily glamorous. Daniel Ruge, Ronald Reagan's first physician in the White House, resigned after the president'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."
Selection of the physician
The White House Physician is often selected personally by the President, and most White House doctors are active-duty military officers, in part because most civilians would find closing then reopening their private practices difficult.
White House physicians
Some of the individuals who have acted as White House physicians:
- 1789: Samuel Bard, MD. Bard was the first physician known to have treated a president when he lanced a boil on George Washington's thigh.
- 1789 to 1797: James Craig. Craig was a family friend of George Washington's.
- 1895: Leonard Wood, MD, USA. Wood was not only the White House Physician to President Grover Cleveland in 1895, but also the personal physician of President and Mrs. William McKinley.
- 1913 to 1921: RADM Cary Travers Grayson, MD, Pharm.D., USN.
- 1921 to 1923: Charles E. Sawyer, HMD
- 1923 to 1929: Major James Francis Coupal, MD, MS, USA
- 1929 to 1933: Commander Joel Thompson Boone, MD, USN
- 1933 to 1945: VADM Ross T. McIntire, MD, USN
- 1945 to 1953: Major General Wallace H. Graham, MD, USA
- 1953 to 1961: Major General Howard McCrum Snyder, MD, USA
- 1961 to 1963: Janet G. Travell, MD
- 1963 to 1969: RADM George G. Burkley, MD, USN
- 1969 to 1974: Major General Walter R. Tkach, MD, USAF
- 1974 to 1981: RADM William M. Lukash, MD, FACP, FACG, USN
- 1981 to 1985: Daniel A. Ruge, MD, Ph.D.
- 1985 to 1986: T. Burton Smith, MD
- 1986 to 1987: John E. Hutton, Jr., MD
- 1987 to 1993: Lawrence C. Mohr, Jr., MD, FACP, FCCP (concurrent from 1989 to 1993 with Burton J. Lee III)
- 1989 to 1993: Burton J. Lee III, MD (concurrent with Lawrence C. Mohr, Jr.)
- 1993 to 2001: RADM Eleanor Mariano, MD, USN
- 2002 to 2009: Brigadier General Richard J. Tubb, USAF
- 2009 to 2011: Captain Jeffrey Kuhlman, MD, USN
- Present: Captain Ronny Jackson, MD, USN[a]
- Dr. Jackson was Director of the White House Medical Unit as of July 2013, but it is unclear just when Dr. Jackson was promoted to this position.
- Mishori, Ranit. "When The Patient Is The President." Parade. August 16, 2009.
- "Release of the President's Medical Exam." Office of the Press Secretary. The White House. February 28, 2010. Accessed 2010-05-12.
- Deppisch, p. 4.
- Deppisch, p. 4, 75.
- "White House Doctors: The President's Shadow." CNN.com. September 24, 2004. Accessed 2010-05-12.
- Thom, Krista. "White House Doctor Cares for President." The Battalion. February 14, 2006. Accessed 2010-05-09.
- Altman, Lawrence K. "Daniel Ruge, 88, Dies." New York Times. September 6, 2005.
- Kuhlman, Jeffrey. "The President's First Periodic Physical Exam As President." Medical Unit. The White House. February 28, 2010. Accessed 2010-05-09.
- Hedger, Brian. "White Coats in the White House: Former Presidential Physicians Reflect On Their Service." American Medical News. March 23, 2009.
- Levin, p. 45; Ferrell, The Dying President, p. 8; Deppisch, p. 87.
- Ferrell, Ill-Advised, p. 22, 27. The acronym HMD stands for "Doctor of Homeopathic Medicine".
- Deppisch, p. 84.
- Ullman, p. 198.
- 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.
- 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.
- McIntire was only a lieutenant commander when his service in the White House began, but retired as a Vice Admiral. See: Deppisch, p. 90.
- Graham began his service at the White House as a Colonel. McCullough, p. 53.
- Deppisch, p. 98; Smith, p. 676.
- Bagg, Jr., James E. "The President's Physician." Texas Heart Institute Journal. 30:1 (2003); "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 2010-05-09.
- "President's Physician: George Gregory Burkley." New York Times. July 20, 1963.
- Gilbert, Robert E. "The Political Effects of Presidential Illness: The Case of Lyndon B. Johnson." Political Psychology. 16:4 (December 1995).
- 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.
- "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 2012-07-30. Accessed 2010-05-09; "Walter Tkach, 72; Served as the Doctor To Three Presidents." Associated Press. November 9, 1989.
- Saxon, Wolfgang. "William Lukash, 66, Doctor Who Watched Over Presidents." New York Times. February 7, 1998.
- 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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "Lawrence C. Mohr, JR., M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P." Commission Members. National Environmental Policy Commission. 2001.
- Joynt and Toole, p. xxxv, 45.
- Altman, Lawrence K. "Doctor at the White House Is Dismissed." New York Times. January 29, 1993.
- "Her Patients Were Presidents." Filipino Reporter. April 16–22, 2010.
- ""Brigadier General (Dr.) Richard J. Tubb." Biographies. Information. United States Air Force. No date.". Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Accessed 2010-05-09.
- "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 2013-07-27.
- "George W. Bush Shows Off Levelland Hat During Trip to Africa." KCBD-TV. July 5, 2013. Accessed 2013-07-27.
- Deppisch, Ludwig M. The White House Physician: A History From Washington to George W. Bush. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2007.
- Evans, Hugh E. The Hidden Campaign: FDR's Health and the 1944 Election. Armonk, N.Y.: Sharpe, 2002.
- Ferrell, Robert H. The Dying President: Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944-1945. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1998.
- Ferrell, Robert H. Ill-Advised: Presidential Health and Public Trust. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 1992.
- Joynt, Robert J. and Toole, James F. Presidential Disability: Papers and Discussions on Inability and Disability Among U. S. Presidents. Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: University of Rochester Press, 2001.
- Levin, Phyllis Lee. Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.
- McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003.
- Smith, Jean Edward. Eisenhower: In War and Peace. New York: Random House, 2012.
- Steely, Skipper. Pearl Harbor Countdown: Admiral James O. Richardson. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing, 2008
- Ullman, Dana. The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2007.