After spending 9 years as the eye doctor for the White House Medical Unit (WHMU), I’ve been asked a lot of questions. One of the most common is, “What do you think is going on there now?” I’m assuming they’re wondering this because the current administration is rather unconventional with a non-establishment president, unorthodox methods and, of course, the tweets. Truth is, the WHMU is probably running exactly the same as it always has – like a well-oiled machine. The White House Medical Unit is tasked with providing healthcare to the President, the First Family, Cabinet members and other government officials. Most of the WHMU staff is military, following regimented protocols and procedures. So, while across West Executive Avenue it might be chaos, the clinic is running smoothly.
The fact is, all presidents are in the news. All the time. There always seems to be high stakes and drama, no matter who is in office. During my 9 years there, it was Bush and the Iraq War, Obama and Obamacare. Now it is Trump and the Wall. There is always a focus on the White House, but you can be sure the military will continue to run the White House’s medical care with the consistent precision it runs all operations. And as far as the WHMU goes, I can tell you, the folks there will always be professional, dedicated and focused on providing the best care.
I was not in the military and will never hold that honored title of “Old Soldier.” I was a civilian and became the White House eye doctor (or the more official term, “Optometry Consultant to the White House Medical Unit”) probably as a matter of luck as much as proficiency in my profession. The majority of my career I spent at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Before it closed and combined with the National Naval MedicalCenter (creating the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center), Walter Reed had “Ward 72,” a VIP suite that would care for high ranking military and civilian officers of our government. The White House Medical Unit doctors and I would provide eye care for these folks, and so I got to know the WHMU staff pretty well. And when the outgoing White House eye doctor and my boss recommended me for the job, they offered me the position, which I gratefully accepted.
My time at the White House covered the years 2006-2015, the tail end of the Bush administration and the bulk of the Obama administration. I got along great with both presidents and hope, in time, to share some memories and stories. I have admiration for both and a great appreciation for the office of the President Of The United States. No matter who holds it, it is a never-ending beat-down of second-guessing, derision and ridicule, and to occupy the office takes a fortitude that I respect, even though I may not agree with everything being done. Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents who took tremendous punishment from all sides, was summed up best by a quote from abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass: “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”
Sometimes, it takes time and perspective to fully understand a President’s contributions and place in history. I’m just honored that I could meet and serve a couple of those remarkable men and, through my small role, help them be their best so they could serve our country.