Welcome to Election Day at Grand Rounds. I want to thank Colin and Dr. Val for allowing me to serve as host. I needed the diversion. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that this election season is coming to an end. Hopefully we will know who our next president is by the end of the night. Pray that no one finds any hanging chads!

The President of the United States has a few things in common with people like Joe the Plumber. From time to time, everyone gets sick and needs to see a doctor. I remember when George H.W. Bush vomited all over a Japanese Prime Minister during a state dinner. And we all remember the attempt on Ronald Regan’s life. Whatever happens, the president’s physician stands ready to care for their famous patient and members of the First Family. Today we are going to review the health history of former presidents at Grand Rounds.


Editor’s Choice For Historical President of the United States: Franklin Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States. FDR served four terms in office and was a central historic figure during the days of the Great Depression and World War II. I think he would know what our next president is going to be up against when he takes the oath of office.

At the age of 39, Roosevelt had a severe attack of poliomyelitis in 1921, resulting in total paralysis of both legs to the hips. Roosevelt refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed. As a result of his illness, he established the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, and helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now known as the March of Dimes). His leadership in this organization is one reason he is commemorated on the dime.

Roosevelt, a chain-smoker, had chronic high blood pressure, emphysema, atherosclerosis, angina pectoris and end-stage heart disease. Dr. Emanuel Libman, then an assistant pathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, predicted that Roosevelt would die of a cerebral hemorrhage within the first 6 months of his last term in office. President Roosevelt died on April 12th, 1945 of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

The Editor’s Choices: Doc Gurley sent in this post that talks about the five things to do for your health this November. The top thing on her to do list is to VOTE! Please follow the doctor’s orders and go out today and vote for the candidate of your choice.

There has been a lot of speculation over the years that FDR had a malignant melanoma excised while in the White House. Between 1920 and 1932 FDR developed an enlarging pigmented lesion above his left eye. This lesion vanished between 1940 and 1944, leaving a scar and a sparse lateral eyebrow. During lectures in 1963 and 1965, Dr. George Pack stated that his friend, Dr. Frank Lahey of Boston, had seen FDR in consultation in 1944 and had informed the president that he had a metastatic tumor, and advised him not to run for a fourth term. Dr. Val Jones from Getting Better with Dr. Val just interviewed a world renowned expert on Lupus, and she thinks that he had some interesting things to say about promising new research in the field. How close are we to finding a cure for cancer? Read Dr. Val’s post and find out.

Kim from Emergiblog wants to help a veteran who is dying from cancer. Please read her touching post about how members of our blogging community are helping this gallant fighter. Way to go Grunt Doc!


John F. Kennedy became the thirty-fifth president of the United States after a scandal-ridden race for the White House. A lot of dead people in Chicago voted for Kennedy. He was also the first Irish-Catholic President of the United States. I know that it sounds kind of strange now, but back then it was a big deal. People were afraid that Kennedy would take his orders from the Pope. Kennedy wasn’t thinking about the Pope. He had a lot of health issues on his mind. In 1937 Kennedy started taking steroids to treat colitis. This caused many long-term side effects that haunted him for the rest of his life. Kennedy suffered from Addison disease as well as chronic back pain possibly related to weakened bones caused by steroid use. Laika from Laika’s MedLibLog sent in a post that discusses the importance of early intervention in Addisonian crises.

David Harlow from HealthBlawg sent in a post about a local Catholic health care system getting big bucks from a large national Catholic system. David thinks that it all sounds a bit scandalous, just like Kennedy’s race for the White House.

According to a couple of sources, Kennedy received last rites three times during his lifetime: Once on the ocean liner Queen Mary in September 1947 after being diagnosed with Addison disease, in 1954 when he fell into coma after he had surgery for a urinary tract infection, and when he was shot on November 22, 1963. There is a legend that Kennedy’s heart was resuscitated shortly after he arrived at the Parkland Hospital ER in Dallas. In any event, there are more questions than answers related to Kennedy’s assassination. Dr. Jolie Bookspan from Healthline sent in a post about forensic identifiers. Identifiers answer questions. Don’t read this post while you are eating. It might ruin your appetite.


William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States. Harrison
almost became a physician. As a young man he enrolled for the two 16-week courses at the University of Pennsylvania that would have led to an M.D. degree, however he didn’t finish the course. Maybe he needed more help getting through medical school. Adam Rosh from Detroit Receiving, The Place For EM, sent in this post about Tracings, written by Dr. William Berk. Tracings is a learning module involving actual cases of patients and their ECGs that present to the Emergency Department. Topics are derived from the EM Model for Resident Education. This sounds like a great learning tool for medical students.

Dr. Chris wrote two great posts at AppleQuack. One post teaches medical students how not to look stupid and the other one teaches them how to study a medical condition. This information is meant to help medical students become doctors that are able to treat all types of illness. Too bad that President Harrison didn’t have a doctor who could treat pneumonia appropriately. Harrison gave a two-hour inaugural speech on a cold, wet day in March of 1841. He developed right lower lobe pneumonia and “congestion of the liver.” His doctors applied suction cups to his chest to draw the evil out of his body. When that didn’t work they gave him ipecac to induce vomiting. They also gave him calomel and castor oil to purge his bowels. As a last resort , they tried opium and brandy, Virginia snakeweed, a Seneca Indian remedy. Nothing worked. Harrison was the first president to die in office. He died one month to the day after his inauguration.

I guess back then it did not matter what kind of government healthcare plan you had. Without good care, you were dead. Adina Cappell from Heal Spiel sent in a post about the time the McCain and Obama campaigns held a debate at her med school. She reviews how each candidate would fix our ailing health care system.

DrRich from The Covert Rationing Blog believes that everyone has the right to health care, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the BOSS rule. You’ve got to read this post.

Sam Solomon from Canadian Medicine wrote a post about the Cabinet shakeup that’s going on in Canada. Read about Canada’s new health minister.


Warren Harding was the 29th President of the United States. President Harding was a big fan of homeopathic medicine. Both of Harding’s parents were homeopathic practitioners, and Harding chose a homeopathic physician to be his personal physician while serving in the White House. President Harding was also a big fan of Dr. J.P. Kellogg and the famous sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. It’s been reported that Harding paid five visits to the sanitarium between 1889 and 1901 to recover from fatigue, overstrain, and nervous illnesses. Harding also suffered from heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Too bad that Harding didn’t have access to support groups that could have given him emotional support as well as additional information about his medical conditions. Amy Tenderich from Diabetes Mine sent in this guest post written by Alexis Pollack. Alexis writes about a woman with Type 1 diabetes is “working on the inside” at a major pharmaceutical company. I really encourage you to visit Amy’s website. It’s a great resource for anyone who is living with or caring for someone with diabetes.

Here’s another great website for anyone interested in diabetes. The power of the diabetes community shows itself again! Kerri Sparling, type 1 diabetic and author of Six Until Me, writes about an episode of Hannah Montana that misrepresented type 1 diabetes, calling for action in the diabetes community to make a difference. The episode, scheduled to air on November 2nd, was PULLED by Disney representatives after an outpouring of emails from the diabetes community.

Patients living with chronic pain need a lot of support, too. The National Institutes of Health has put together a podcast about vulvadynia, a painful pelvic disorder in women. Check it out at How to Cope with Pain.

Patients and health care professionals are finding more ways to use the Internet to communicate with each other about health care issues. Dr. Ves Dimvo from Clinical Cases and Images sent in this post that tells how Dr. Theresa Chan is using Twitter to communicate with her health care colleagues. And speaking of the good doctor, Dr. Theresa Chan from Rural Doctoring sent in this post that explains her point of view about health care reform.

Dr. Walter Jessen from Highlight Health 2.0 writes that people are using the Internet more than ever to search for health or medical information online. Read his post about a health 2.0 service that combines a vertical health search engine with a patient-to-patient social network.

David Williams, the author of the Health Business Blog, sent in a post containing a transcript of his recent podcast interview with Telerays CEO, Dr. Daniel Roubein. The Telerays platform is designed to help connect health care professions.


William Taft was the 27th President of the United States. He was also the heaviest U.S. president on record. Taft struggled all his adult life with a weight problem. He got stuck in the White House bathtub and had to have an oversized version brought in for his use. Taft was 5 feet 11.5 tall and weighed 335-340 pounds near the end of his presidency. Fortunately, he was able to drop a lot of weight after leaving office in 1913. I wonder if he was a stress eater. Taft suffered from hypertension and sleep apnea in addition to lumbago, gout, motion sickness, TMJ, and constipation. Jeffrey Leow from Monash Medical Student submitted a post about a patient who had a couple of things in common with President Taft. Read his post about a patient who lost a lot of weight after having a high gastric reduction and then developed obstructed defecation.

The good people from ACP Internist sent these posts my way. Did you know that a recent BMJ report just came out? It said that adults who eat rapidly or until they’re full are more likely to be overweight. I guess Taft wasn’t only a stress eater, he was a fast eater, too. Check out both posts for information about a variety of subjects.


James Monroe was the 5th President of the United States. Monroe suffered from many aliments including problems related to a war injury. In 1776 Monroe took a bullet in the left side of his chest during the Battle of Trenton. The bullet grazed the left side of Monroe’s chest, then hit his shoulder and injured the axillary artery. A doctor saved Monroe’s life by sticking his finger into the wound to stop the bleeding. Surgeons were unable to remove the bullet and he carried it in his shoulder for the rest of his life. Monroe also suffered from reoccurring bouts of malaria. He contracted malaria while visiting a swampy area of the Mississippi River in 1785. Monroe had a noteworthy seizure in August 1825 that was possibly caused by cerebral malaria. The seizure was so severe that it almost killed him. Monkeygirl from Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey took care of a woman who was having fake seizures. The only noteworthy thing about the event was the woman’s sock. You’ve got to read this post.


Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. Known to the public as Teddy, Roosevelt was a hunter, explorer, solider, historian, author, and naturalist. He was the Rough Rider who walked softly and carried a big stick. Roosevelt believed in euthanasia, and he was the first president to call for universal health care and national health insurance.

Teddy was the model of masculinity. He was big and strong, but he had health issues just like everyone else. Roosevelt had very poor eyesight and got knocked out a few times while playing polo. He snored, was obese, and was blind in one eye. Roosevelt ran for President in 1912 as a third party candidate. During his campaign, John Schrank, a psychotic New York saloonkeeper, shot Roosevelt at close range during a campaign stop in Milwaukee. The bullet passed though a fifty-page speech and a steel spectacle case in Roosevelt’s breast pocket before it lodged into the right side of his chest. Roosevelt received treatment and was released 8 days later from Mercy Hospital, located in Chicago. Roosevelt also suffered from malaria in his later years.

Despite his physical limitations, Roosevelt will always be remembered as a great adventurer. Dr. Paul Auerbach from Healthline also loves a good adventure. He swims with great white sharks. You read that right. Now read his post.

Wozzer from The Beauty of Motion also loves going on big adventures. He sent in a post about his trip to Italy, and describes his experiences and emotions as an Orthopedic Surgeon.


Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States, and as we all know, he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Despite the health issues that plagued him throughout his life, Jefferson was also a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. Historians also remember Jefferson as the most influential Founding Father for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States.

From age 19, Jefferson started experiencing raging headaches that would leave him incapacitated for six weeks at a time. These headaches would come every 7-8 years and seemed to correlate around deeply emotional events in his life. John Bumgarner, the author of The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician’s Point of View concluded that these were a form of cluster headaches, but also believes there was a tension component, as horseback riding offered relief. Jefferson suffered from an episode of disabling “‘rheumatism,” periodic bouts of depression, and chronic back pain related to a back injury he suffered while working on his Monticello estate. 3+speckled from Rheumination: Rheumatology, Medicine, Science sent in a post about the Placebo Treatment of Fibromyalgia. I wonder if rheumatism is related to fibromyalgia. I hope doctors back then didn’t treat it with sugar pills. (Short editorial) I think that giving placebos to patients is just wrong.

Jefferson could have used the advice of Dean Moyer from the Back Pain Blog. Dean offers an explanation as to why even physically fit people develop lower back problems in, Back Pain is Not About Strength. He proposes that one reason athletes and otherwise healthy men and women develop back pain is that they often overlook important key elements of fitness; not the least of which are exercises specifically designed to lubricate your joints.

Jefferson required glasses from “middle age” on in order to read. Dr. Nancy Brown from Teen Health 411 sent in a post about sore eyes during homework. Just because you’re not middle age, doesn’t mean that you may not need glasses.


Thank you for stopping by for Election Day at Grand Rounds. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you where I found most of my presidential health information. To learn more fascinating information about our former presidents, please go and visit Dr. Zebra . He said that the Zebra is fake but that the doctor is real. Tell him Mother Jones, RN sent you. Next week’s host of Grand Rounds is Dr. Rob from Musings of a Distractible Mind. Send submissions to dr.rob.questions(at)gmail(dot)com.