The White House Physician

A History from Washington to George W. Bush


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About the Book

When President George Washington fell ill six short weeks after his inauguration, he summoned Samuel Bard, one of the most prominent physicians of the day. Thereafter, when residing at his presidential home in Manhattan, Washington consistently relied on Bard for medical care. Thus Bard became the first in a line of presidential physicians, the providers of medical care for America’s chief executive.
From George Washington to George W. Bush, this volume examines 217 years of health care in the White House and the men and women who ministered to these presidential patients. Beginning with that first presidential physician’s visit on June 13, 1789, it analyzes the relationships—sometimes fruitful and sometimes disastrous—of the presidents with their physicians. While biographical sketches detailing the background of each physician are included, the main focus of the work is the especially complex physician-patient relationship and the ways in which it has changed over time. The evolution of the presidential physician’s responsibilities is also discussed, as are developments in American medicine during presidential terms.

About the Author(s)

Ludwig M. Deppisch, M.D., is a professor emeritus of pathology, Northeast Ohio Medical University. A native of New York, he lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Bibliographic Details

Ludwig M. Deppisch, M.D.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 266
Bibliographic Info: 43 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2976-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1
Introduction      3

1. Samuel Bard: The First Presidential Physician      7
2. The Pillars of the Profession: Presidential Physicians, 1812–1865      20
3. The Military Steps In, Part I: The Early Days, 1823–1865      32
4. The Military Steps In, Part II: Conflicts and Cooperation, 1865–1898      42
5. Admiral Presley Rixey: The First Authentic White House Physician      62
6. Captain Joel Boone and the Institutionalization of the Office of the White House Physician      75
7. The Military Keepers of the Stethoscope: Doctors Cary Grayson, Ross McIntire and Howard Snyder      87
8. Physician Anecdotes: The Returnee, the Academic, the Consultant and the Defendant, 1953–1981      110
9. Civilian Interlude, Part I: Medical Chaos in Camelot      122
10. Civilian Interlude, Part II: The Specialist Physicians of Presidents Reagan and Bush I      138
11. The White House Medical Unit Today      150
12. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment and Its Impact on the White House Medical Unit      159
13. Psychiatry and the Presidency      167
14. The Medical Care of Vice Presidents      179
15. Presidential Physicians After Their Tenures      192

Final Thoughts      201
Chapter Notes      207
Bibliography      237
Index      249

Book Reviews & Awards

“impressively researched…fascinating”—Arizona Daily Star; “very well researched…a significant contribution to the understanding of presidential health care”—Journal of the History of Medicine; “an essential-read for any Navy medical recruiter”—Navy Medicine; “Deppisch has done his homework”—Bulletin of the History of Medicine.