White House Physician

Today President Obama will deliver his farewell speech as he prepares to leave office and President-elect Trump prepares for his inauguration on January 20th. In this time of transition, there have been many news stories about the cabinet members, policy advisors, and the many 4,000+ jobs that the new administration must fill. There are a lot of people that work in the White House with varying backgrounds and responsibilities—including doctors! The White House Medical Unit is an important, but perhaps lesser known department that provides important healthcare services for the president, his employees, and everyone who visits the White House each day.

Dr. James M. Young, a 1955 graduate of the Duke School of Medicine, served as one of the physicians in this unit from 1963-1966 during the administrations of President Kennedy and President Johnson. In a November 1975 issue of Intercom, Dr. Young recalled his experiences as White House physician for a newsletter article below. [click on the newspaper pages to enlarge]Intercom, page 1 Intercom, page 2

His experiences as a White House physician are particularly noteworthy for a sober reason--- the assassination of President Kennedy.Dr. Young had only been working for the President for a few months when he President Kennedy was shot. In addition to being present at the autopsy, he also spent several days caring for Jackie Kennedy after her husband’s death. In the absence of tragedy, the work of the White House physicians is likely to go unnoticed. The sad circumstances of a president’s death however shed a spotlight on the duties of the White House physicians and the great work they do every day. Dr. James M. Young is one great example of the many impressive and varied career paths that Duke Alumni take after graduation. Duke has a rich legacy of alumni working all over the world and that includes the White House.

For further reading on Dr. James M. Young and the White House Medical Unit:

“What Price a Rose? A Navy Physician Remembers Nov. 22, 1963”, Navy Medicine Live: https://archive.org/details/WhatPriceARoseANavyPhysicianRemembersNov.221963NavyMedicine

James Young, 78, physician to Kennedy and Johnson”, The Boston Globe: http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2008/06/09/james_young_78_physician_to_kennedy_and_johnson/?page=1

“White coats in the White House: Former presidential physicians reflect on their service”, American Medical News: https://amednews.com/article/20090323/profession/303239973/4/“ [validated 09-29-2023]

The Rigors of Treating the Patient in Chief”, The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/health/views/16docs.html