What to Know About Sean Conley, the White House Physician


The doctors said Mr. Trump was put on oxygen at the White House on Friday but were not clear about whether it was administered again on Saturday.

“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Dr. Conley said. “The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”

The White House has employed regular physicians since at least 1898, when President William McKinley hired a Navy physician, Presley Rixey. He cared for Mr. McKinley and his wife, said Ludwig M. Deppisch, a medical historian and author of “The White House Physician: A History From Washington to George W. Bush.”

Before then, Dr. Ludwig said, presidents had typically called on military or civilian doctors as needed. But the role of the White House physician as it exists today, a permanent government post for a medical doctor responsible for monitoring the president’s health on a continuing basis, was not enshrined in law by Congress until 1928, by which time the role had become more professionalized, he wrote.

The White House now also has a robust medical unit that includes other doctors and nurses responsible for the well-being of the president, the vice president and White House staff.

Dr. Daniel A. Ruge was the White House physician who made crucial decisions after President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. Twelve days after the shooting, Mr. Reagan returned to the White House. Many doctors credited Mr. Reagan’s recovery, if not his survival, to Dr. Ruge’s decision not to disrupt the hospital’s routine.

At other times, the position of White House physician has been complicated by political interests. For instance, Woodrow Wilson’s physician hid from Congress and the American public the severity of the president’s stroke shortly after World War I, which had implications for the nation’s ability to engage in foreign relations.

Concepción de León contributed reporting.



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