White House Clarifies Neurologist’s Role Amid Health Concerns for President Biden

Written from White House Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 8, 2024) — The White House has released a memorandum from Dr. Kevin C. O’Connor, Physician to the President, to address concerns about President Joe Biden’s health following his recent debate performance against former President Donald Trump. The statement comes amid calls from some Democratic Party members for Biden to step aside in the 2024 presidential campaign.

Dr. Kevin Cannard, Neurology Consultant to the White House Medical Unit since 2012, has been highlighted for his critical role in maintaining President Biden’s neurological health. Dr. O’Connor noted that Dr. Cannard, a highly experienced neurologist, has been providing consultations and treatments at the White House for over a decade.

According to the letter, Dr. Cannard’s extensive qualifications include a Movement Disorders fellowship at Emory University and more than six years of general neurology practice. He is the longest-serving neurologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and has been a faculty member at the Uniformed Services University’s medical school since 1991. He has earned numerous teaching awards and is respected for his clinical skills.

Following concerns over Biden’s debate performance, Dr. O’Connor emphasized that Dr. Cannard’s neurological assessments of President Biden have consistently been reassuring. The President’s most recent physical examination, detailed in a February 28 report, found no signs of central neurological disorders such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, or cervical myelopathy. However, it did confirm a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in Biden’s feet, with no detected motor weakness or tremor. The exam noted a subtle heat/cold sensation deficit, which has shown slight variations over the years.

Despite these reassurances, some Democratic leaders have expressed doubts about Biden’s ability to sustain another presidential campaign, citing his recent debate performance as a potential indicator of cognitive decline.

PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT
THE WHITE HOUSE

8 July 2024

MEMORANDUM FOR: KARINE JEAN-PIERRE
ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY

FROM: KEVIN C. O’CONNOR, D.O., FAAFP
PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT

I wanted to share with you background on why Dr. Kevin Cannard visited the White House.

To protect patient privacy for the thousands of patients of the White House Medical Unit and the physicians who treat them, normally we do not disclose the names of the specialists we work with. However, in the interests of accuracy, I have obtained permission from the President and Dr. Cannard to confirm the details I am sharing.

Dr. Cannard has been the Neurology Consultant to the White House Medical Unit since 2012. He was chosen for his breadth of experience and expertise across the specialty of Neurology. Prior to his Movement Disorders fellowship at Emory University, he had practiced as a general neurologist for six years. He is the longest serving Neurologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and in the Military Healthcare System. He has been a member of the faculty at the Uniformed Services University’s medical school since 1991 and is core faculty of the Neurology Residency Program. He has numerous local and national teaching awards, and is highly regarded for his clinical skills. These qualities make him a valued and versatile consultant to assess and treat a wide variety of conditions. Prior to the pandemic, and following its end, he has held regular Neurology Clinics at the White House Medical Clinic in support of the thousands of active-duty members assigned in support of White House operations. Many military personnel experience neurological issues related to their service, and Dr. Cannard regularly visits the WHMU as part of this General Neurology practice. We value the contributions he has made across the many patients he has treated in support of the White House and its personnel over these years.

As I have written in each of the President’s medical reports, as part of the President’s annual physical, he sees a team of specialists that have included Optometry, Dentistry, Orthopedics (Foot and Ankle), Orthopedics (Spine), Physical Therapy, Neurology, Sleep Medicine, Cardiology, Radiology, and Dermatology. Dr. Cannard was the neurological specialist that examined President Biden for each of his annual physicals. His findings have been made public each time I have released the results of the President’s annual physical. President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical.

The results of this year’s exam were detailed in my February 28th letter: “An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy. This exam did again support a finding of peripheral neuropathy in both feet. No motor weakness was detected. He exhibits no tremor, either at rest or with activity. He demonstrates excellent fine motor dexterity. But a subtle difference in heat/cold sensation could be elicited as it was last year. This heat/cold sensation deficit was detected a couple of inches higher on his ankle/calf this year, which is not unexpected. There may, in fact, be day to day subjective variation of these findings, as during last year’s exam, this area of sensation deficit was actually found to be smaller than the year before.”

Seeing patients at the White House is something that Dr. Cannard has been doing for a dozen years. Dr. Cannard was chosen for this responsibility not because he is a movement disorder specialist, but because he is a highly trained and highly regarded neurologist here at Walter Reed and across the Military Health System, with a very wide expertise which makes him flexible to see a variety of patients and problems.

Respectfully submitted,

Kevin C. O’Connor, D.O., FAAFP
Physician to the President
The White House
Associate Professor, The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences

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