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White House Physicians

White House physicians protect the health of the President of the United States. In collaboration with the White House Medical Unit, White House physicians also provide health care to members of the president's immediate family, the vice president, the vice president's family, and White House staff. In observance of Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday in the month of February in the United States, we honor doctors in Military Health System who have served our Commanders in Chief in their roles as White House physicians.

White House Physicians timeline hero image

A timeline of the doctors in the Military Health System who have served our Commanders in Chief in their roles as White House physicians.

1865 Charles Augustus Leale

Military Docs Charles Leale 270x147

The young physician who’d hoped to catch a glimpse of President Abraham Lincoln at a Washington, D.C. play could never have imagined he’d witness the president’s assassination, much less be the first doctor to tend him. Born in 1842, in New York City, Charles Leale was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, working as a surgeon. While watching a performance at Ford’s Theatre, Leale heard a gunshot and rushed toward the panic coming from President Lincoln’s theatre box, where he found Lincoln unconscious. Leale’s diagnosis was telegraphed around the country: “His wound is mortal; it is impossible for him to recover.” Leale supervised the move of Lincoln to a boarding house across the street for a more comfortable place during the president’s final hours. Leale sat beside the president, holding his hand until he passed away nine hours later. Leale continued to serve in the U.S. Army until 1866 and returned to New York City, where he established a successful private practice.

1893 William Williams Keen

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After earning his medical degree in 1862 from Jefferson Medical College, William Williams Keen’s career as a U.S. Army Surgeon spanned the Civil War to World War I. From bloody battlefields to military hospital duty, Keen’s service led to renowned advancements in neurology, bacteriology, sterile techniques, and entomology. In 1887, Keen gained additional acclaim for being the first American surgeon to successfully remove a brain tumor. This prompted President Grover Cleveland's personal physician to appoint Keen to lead a team of doctors to perform a secret removal of a mouth lesion on the president (the public was told first told that President Cleveland was "on vacation," and later that he had just had some "dental work"). The biopsy that precipitated that procedure was diagnosed as a "probable epithelioma" at the Army Medical Museum, now known as the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Silver Spring, Maryland. The tumor that Keen extracted from Cleveland’s jaw is on exhibit at the museum.

1895 Leonard Wood

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Leonard Wood was born on Oct. 9, 1860, in Winchester, New Hampshire. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1884, and after serving as a contract surgeon for a year he was commissioned into the Army as a medical officer at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in 1886. In 1898,Wood was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the 1886 expedition against the Apache. In 1891, Wood was promoted to captain and later assigned to Washington, D.C., where he became the White House physician to President Grover Cleveland, and later the personal physician to President William McKinley. Concurrent to this service, Wood commanded the 1st Volunteer Cavalry during the Spanish-American War, with future president Theodore Roosevelt serving as his second-in-command. Today, Fort Leonard Wood and General Wood Community Hospital in Missouri are both named in his honor.

1913 – 1921 Cary Travers Grayson

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A native of Culpeper, Virginia, Cary Travers Grayson completed his medical studies in 1903 and was appointed an acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy. In 1912, he was assigned to the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, with coinciding duties as Aide to the White House. At a dinner party in 1913, Grayson tended to President Woodrow Wilson’s injured sister, becoming Wilson’s physician shortly thereafter. Four years later, Grayson was commissioned a rear admiral by Wilson. He resided in the White House and accompanied Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Grayson earned the Navy Cross for his meritorious service as Wilson’s personal physician and aide.

1921–1923 Charles E. Sawyer

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Charles E. Sawyer was born in 1860 in Ohio. Sawyer graduated from Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital College in 1881 and began a practice near LaRue, Ohio. Sawyer eventually became the family doctor to then-Senator William G. Harding. When Harding became president in 1921, first lady Florence Harding insisted Sawyer be named surgeon general and the president’s primary physician. Heeding his wife’s wishes, President Harding inducted the 60-year-old Sawyer into the U.S. Army, commissioning him as a brigadier general. After Harding’s death in 1923, Sawyer remained on the White House medical staff, serving as one of President Calvin Coolidge’s three primary physicians.

1923–1929 James Frances Coupal

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James Frances Coupal was born in 1884 in Quincy, Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor's degree from Tufts University in 1906, and a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1909. In 1915, during World War I, Coupal was commissioned as a U.S. Army captain and assistant surgeon in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment. After the war, Coupal served as head curator of the U.S. Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. Coupal later succeeded Charles E. Sawyer as the White House physician under President Calvin Coolidge. In 1928, Coolidge made Coupal a colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

1929 - 1933 Joel Thompson Boone

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Joel Thompson Boone was born in 1889 in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. Boone graduated in 1913 from Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia, and was soon appointed lieutenant junior grade in the U.S. Navy Reserve Medical Corps. During World War I, Boone became a surgeon with the 6th Marine Regiment in France, where his actions in aiding the wounded garnered him a Medal of Honor. During World War II, Boone served as a Naval Medical Corps representative and was aboard USS Missouri at the surrender ceremonies of the Japanese in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. After the war, he served with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. as director of the Bureau of Naval Affairs, and then as medical officer on board the presidential yacht, USS Mayflower. In March 1929, he was appointed physician to the White House, attending to President Herbert Hoover. After nearly 20 more years of distinguished service to the U.S. Navy, Boone retired with the rank of vice admiral.

1933 - 1945 Ross T. McIntire

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Ross T. McIntire was born in 1889 in Salem, Oregon. In 1912, McIntire graduated from Willamette University College of Medicine. Five years later, he was commissioned as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. In 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was searching for a personal physician, McIntire was recommended because of his ear, nose, and throat specialty, which would help treat Roosevelt’s frequent sinus issues. A year later, McIntire became the first physician to the president with a board-certified specialty and served as Roosevelt’s physician until 1945. After McIntire retired in 1946 with the rank of vice admiral, he served as the first chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped.

1942 -1945 Howard G. Bruenn

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Howard G. Bruenn was born in 1905 in Youngstown, Ohio. After graduating from Columbia College and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bruenn joined the U.S. Navy and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander in 1942. Bruenn was then transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital to serve as chief of cardiology. There, an ailing President Franklin D. Roosevelt was examined by Bruenn, who determined the president was suffering from previously  undiagnosed congestive heart failure. Bruenn soon became the president’s personal cardiologist, concurrent to the service of White House physician Ross T. McIntire. Bruenn was present when the president died in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945.

1945 - 1953 Wallace H. Graham

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Born in 1910 in Highland, Kansas, Wallace H. Graham graduated with a medical degree from the Creighton University School of Medicine in 1936. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps on June 4, 1936, Graham began active duty as a surgeon on April 14, 1941. From 1941 to 1945, Graham served in military medical assignments throughout Africa and Europe. Graham went ashore at Omaha Beach, Normandy, on June 10, 1944, and parachuted into Holland for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 17, 1944. He received two Bronze Star Medals for his efforts. In September 1945, President Harry S. Truman chose Graham to be his personal White House physician and medical advisor where he remained until 1953. Graham continued serving as the Truman family doctor until the death of first lady Bess Truman in 1982.

1953 – 1961 Howard McCrum Snyder

Howard McCrum Snyder was born in 1881 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He earned his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Snyder went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Medical School in Washington, D.C. and was immediately commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1908. He was assigned to the Research Board of Tropical Medicine in 1909 in the Philippines. After two years of service there, Snyder served 25 years in various commands throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including as medical adviser to the National Guard Bureau and as assistant to the inspector general of the War Department. In 1945, Snyder retired and became General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal physician. After Eisenhower’s inauguration in January 1953, Snyder was appointed to the White House staff and remained the president’s personal physician.

1963 - 1969 George G. Burkley

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George G. Burkley earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, specializing in internal medicine and cardiology. In 1941, he joined the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant commander. After serving in the Pacific theater during World War II, he became commanding officer of the Naval Dispensary in Washington, D.C., and later the physician at Camp David. In August 1961, Dr. Burkley was promoted to rear admiral and became one of three White House physicians to President John F. Kennedy. Burkley was in the Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, when Kennedy was shot. When Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president after Kennedy’s assassination, Burkley was appointed President Johnson’s personal doctor.

1963 - 1966 James Young

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James Young, a football star from Massillon, Ohio, completed his pre-medical studies at Duke University on a full athletic scholarship. Young turned down an offer to play in the National Football League, opting to obtain his medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine. In 1955, Young entered the U.S. Navy and served as ship’s doctor aboard the USS Northampton. There, Young met President John F. Kennedy, who was touring the ship. A few months later, Young was asked to become the president's personal physician, alongside George G. Burkley. Young had worked at the White House for only a few months before Kennedy was assassinated. Young was present at the president’s autopsy and spent several days caring for first lady Jackie Kennedy after her husband’s death. Twelve years later, Young served as President Jimmy Carter’s physician.

1969 Walter R. Tkach

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After earning a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State College in 1941 and a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1945, Walter R. Tkach entered the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He went on to work as a medical inspector and as a general duty medical officer with occupation forces in Japan. Tkach transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 1949 and became a flight surgeon. In 1953 he was assigned to the Medical Officer Staff in the White House Dispensary, eventually becoming assistant to the personal physician to Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon asked him to become White House surgeon. Tkach retired in 1970 as a U.S. Air Force major general.

1974 – 1981 William M. Lukash

William Lukash was born in 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1956 and joined the U.S. Navy Medical Corps in 1957. After a residency at the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois, Lukash became an assistant White House physician, one of the youngest physicians ever to receive an appointment at the executive mansion.While serving in the Johnson and Nixon administrations, Lukash also served as head of gastrointestinal services at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. In 1974, Lukash was promoted to White House chief physician under President Gerald R. Ford and later, President Jimmy Carter. Lukash retired from the Navy and his White House post in 1981 at the rank of rear admiral.

1986 - 1987 John E. Hutton Jr.

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New York City native John E. Hutton Jr. graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in 1953. Shortly after, he commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1957, Hutton resigned his regular commission to attain his medical degree from the George Washington School of Medicine, Washington, D.C. He then entered the U.S. Army and completed a fellowship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.. Hutton went on to complete a tour in Vietnam and led several medical posts throughout the U.S. and Honduras. In July 1984, Hutton was appointed assistant physician to President Ronald Reagan. Two years later, Reagan appointed Hutton as head physician to the president as well as director of the White House Medical Unit, where he provided care to the first family as well as White House staff and visiting dignitaries.

1987 - 1993 Lawrence C. Mohr Jr.

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A native of Staten Island, New York, Lawrence C. Mohr Jr. earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. In 1967, Mohr was drafted into the U.S. Army and deployed during the Vietnam War, where he served as commanding officer of a combat unit in the 101st Airborne Division. Upon returning to the U.S., he completed a fellowship in pulmonary medicine Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. later becoming its chief medical resident. Mohr turned down his first invitation to become White House physician to spend more time with his family. But President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff persisted, and in 1987, Mohr accepted and was commissioned as White House physician. Mohr held that post for more than six years, working for both Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. He also served under President Bill Clinton during his transition into office. Objects from Mohr’s White House doctor’s kit are paired with his interview in an interactive exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.  

1989 – 1993 Burton J. Lee

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Burton J. Lee was born in 1930 in New York City. He graduated from Yale University in 1952 and received his medical degree from Columbia University in 1956. He joined the medical staff at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 1960 as an oncologist and chemotherapist. One year later, Lee commissioned into the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He served as a U.S. Army physician at Stuttgart, Germany, and at a hospital in post-civil war Algeria. After his military service, Lee rejoined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as senior attending physician and began to serve on the President's Commission on the HIV Epidemic. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Lee as his personal physician. Lee remained active on HIV and AIDS issues throughout the Bush administration, lobbying for an end to immigration laws barring individuals with HIV/AIDS from visiting the United States.

1992 - 2001 Eleanor Mariano

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Eleanor Mariano is the first woman in the military to be appointed White House physician. Valedictorian of her high school, Mariano then graduated with honors from University of California and joined the U.S. Navy in 1977. Four years later, she earned her medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine. From 1982-1990, she served in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific as a general medical officer and medical department division head. In 1992, Mariano was appointed White House physician by President George H. W. Bush. At the end of Bush’s term, Mariano was personally selected by incoming President Bill Clinton to be White House physician and director of the White House Medical Unit. In 2001, Mariano retired from the U.S. Navy and left the White House to join the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

2002 – 2009 Richard J. Tubb

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Richard J. Tubb received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1981, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. He achieved his medical degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, going on to complete a family practice residency at David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in 1988. While in the U.S. Air Force Medical Service, Tubb served in various leadership positions including chief, Acute Care Clinic, 10th Tactical Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Alconbury, England, and flight chief, Flight Medicine & Physical Exams, 375th Medical Group, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Tubb as physician to the White House, where he served as Vice President Al Gore’s personal physician. In January 2000, he was promoted to director of the White House Medical Unit. President George W. Bush reaffirmed Dr. Tubb’s leadership and subsequently commissioned him as physician to the president in March 2002.

2009 - 2013 Jeffrey Kuhlman

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Born and raised near Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jeffrey Kuhlman graduated from medical school at Loma Linda University. Kuhlman’s 30-year career as a U.S. Navy physician includes service as head of military medicine at Naval Medical Clinic, Hawaii, and senior flight surgeon for the Presidential Helicopter Squadron One. During the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Kuhlman was on the White House grounds while serving as physician to the president’s cabinet. He spent the day in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, advising all joint service and interagency medical and operational logistics. In 2009, Kuhlman was appointed physician to President Barack Obama, where he coordinated health care for the president and the first family. 

2014 - 2019 Ronny Jackson

WH Physicians Ronny Jackson

Ronny Jackson, a former West Texas oil rig laborer, served the White House Medical Unit during three presidential administrations. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Jackson completed medical school at University of Texas Medical Branch in 1995 and immediately begin active-duty service in the U.S. Navy. During a deployment to Iraq, the George W. Bush administration called him to return to the U.S. to serve in the White House Medical Unit. Jackson went on to lead the White House Medical Unit during the Obama and Trump administrations. In January 2019, President Donald Trump appointed him as chief medical advisor and assistant to the president. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in December 2019 with the rank of rear admiral and returned to Texas, where in 2021, he began his term representing Texas’ 13th Congressional District.

2018 - 2021 Sean Conley

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Sean Conley, a native of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, attended the University of Notre Dame, where he was a member of U.S. Navy ROTC. Conley received his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006. Later that year, he joined the U.S. Navy as an emergency physician. His service in that capacity spans the globe, from Australia to Afghanistan. In 2010, Conley’s prolific background in combat casualty care research led to his post as director of the U.S. Navy's Combat Trauma Research Group out of Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Virginia, where he served until 2016. In March 2018, Conley became acting White House physician, and two months later, became physician to President Donald Trump. Today, Conley is a course director at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

2021 Kevin O’Connor

Military Docs Kevin O

Kevin O’Connor enrolled in the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine after attending college on a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed O’Connor to the White House medical staff. After President Barack Obama’s election, Joe Biden, vice president at the time, asked O’Connor to stay on as Biden’s personal physician, and he served in that role for eight years. O’Connor retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel in 2017. Four years later, shortly after Biden’s 2021 inauguration, O’Connor was commissioned as White House physician. Notably, he diagnosed and treated the president’s bout of COVID-19 and tended to the Biden family as they grieved the death of their dog, Champ.

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Last Updated: February 13, 2024
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