The White House confirmed right before New Year’s that Trump’s “customary presidential physical” is scheduled for Jan. 12 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
CBS News reported that White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, M.D., who also treated former president Obama, will administer the physical. Dr. Jackson has been in this role since 2013.
You can view the public results of Obama’s last physical here.
Dr. Jamie Wells, M.D., Director of Medicine for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), wrote on the ACSH website that professionals who have publically came forward with diagnoses of the president’s mental and physical state, “cannot possibly be fully informed when they are not the treating physician.”
These professionals include the 27 psychologists and psychiatrists who contributed to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a collective diagnosis of Trump’s mental state as a “present danger” to the nation.
Dr. Wells continued: “The President’s actual physician– like any other individual’s– who has direct knowledge of the complete history, examination and access to the full record is the only person who can determine medical fitness for the office. And, it is at the patient’s sole discretion what is permitted to be released, in part or in full.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did say that results of Trump’s Jan. 12 physical will be released after its completion, but she was unclear what that would entail. Trump himself will have to sign off on the release of the information.
Though this physical is not a direct response to the ongoing question of Trump’s mental and physical fitness, it’s coming at a time when the frequency and weight of this question is undoubtedly at an all-time high.
What we should expect, and what we shouldn’t
CNN reports that generally, the doctor conducting the exam (in this case, Dr. Jackson) will make an overall assessment of health and will declare whether or not the president is fit to serve in office. Rarely has this included details of mental health, according to CNN. “A review of the past five presidents’ physical exams show only brief mentions of mental health, and none provide a readout of mental health tests,” the publication states.
When asked whether or not the exam would include mental acuity tests, Sander replied: “We’ll discuss, as I said when I announced that he was going to be doing the physical, we’ll have a readout of that after that is completed and we’ll let you know at that time.”
While we might not be getting much about Trump’s mental health specifically, we should expect information typical to a physical exam. According to CNN, along with metrics like height, weight and blood pressure, past exams have also included information about “vision, thyroid, cardiac rhythms, gastrointestinal system, skin and neurological indicators like cerebellar function, motor functions and sensory systems.”
Dr. Wells told Metro that in terms of the presidential physical, a doctor’s role “is to provide an objective, comprehensive and thorough assessment of the patient determining medical fitness, in general, and for the task at hand. He is bound to a high ethical standard with the best interests of the patient at the forefront, this includes diagnosing and treating illness, optimizing medications and determining the need for further testing or interventions.”
She noted, however, that “assessing appropriate cognition would be a routine component of such an exam,” and that ultimately, “the doctor’s concluding statement that a person is medically fit to perform the job implies he would be mentally AND physically fit.”
What we know from past exams
During Trump’s campaign, his personal physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein of Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital, wrote in a Dec. 2015 letter: “Over the past 39 years, I am pleased to report that Mr. Trump has had no significant medical problems.” Trump went to Dr. Bornstein’s father, Jacob Bornstein, before his son took over the practice in 1980, according to The New York Times.
“Mr. Trump has suffered no form of cancer, has never had a hip, knee or shoulder replacement or any other orthopedic surgery,” Dr. Bornstein wrote. He also added that Trump has “no history of ever using alcohol or tobacco products.”
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” the doctor concluded.
That following September, less than two months before the election, Trump released a letter from the same physician detailing his weight (236 pounds), blood pressure (116/70), blood sugar level (99) cholesterol (HDL 63, LDL 94, triglycerides 61) and results from certain exams. This information reportedly came from a physical conducted on Sept. 9.
The doctor said his EKG and chest X-ray scans in April were “normal,” and his last colonoscopy (conducted in July 2013) was “normal and revealed no polyps.”
CBS News reported that the letter also revealed Trump is on a “lipid lower agent called rosuvastatin and a low dose aspirin.”
“In summary, Mr. Trump is in excellent physical health,” Dr. Bornstein wrote.
Trump’s campaign released a statement when the second letter was published, writing: “We are pleased to disclose all of the test results which show that Mr. Trump is in excellent health, and has the stamina to endure — uninterrupted — the rigors of a punishing and unprecedented presidential campaign and, more importantly, the singularly demanding job of President of the United States.”