Health and Medical History of President

Barack Obama

President #44
Lived: 1961-Date Served: 2009-Date

Timeline from 1776: ← 2013

Maladies and Conditions

childhood infections
Had measles and chicken pox while living in Indonesia 3a.

infectious exposures
Exposed to multiple animals while living in Indonesia, including a New Guinean ape, chickens, ducks, birds, dogs, and crocodiles 3b. He also was exposed to human diseases: scurvy, polio, leprosy, and a man with gaping hole where nose should be (syphilis?) 3c. Had an "endless series of shots" before going to Indonesia for the first time 3d. Comment: Who made these diagnoses?

minor childhood travails
Developed an "egg-size lump on the side of my head" after another boy struck him with a rock 3e.

Acne 3f.

forearm laceration
Ran into barbed wire while mudsliding in Indonesia. One of his forearms was lacerated from wrist to elbow, and required 20 stitches. "An ugly scar" remains. 3g

Obama was smoking cigarettes in high school 3h. He continued smoking afterwards 3i. He talked about quitting in 1988, but this may have been in jest 3j. He has [tried to] quit several times over the years MORE 5.

While running for President in 2008, he said he would quit, and that he was chewing Nicorette. His wife disclosed that, in exchange for giving her permission for him to run, she required that he quit 2. According to a February 2008 report, he quit smoking "several weeks" earlier 2.

Comment: Obama's total exposure to cigarettes, measured in "pack-years," has not been released. Any competent physician would elicit this information from the patient. It is so important that some physicians have called it a new "vital sign" (that's silly, but it makes the point). The quantified smoking exposure is important, among other reasons, in estimating the risk of various diseases. Although it appears as if the information was deliberately suppressed, I hope a reader can supply a pointer to the data.

drug use
Used marijuana and "blow" (cocaine) in high school. He was dissuaded from injecting heroin by the fear that an air bubble might be injected, which would travel to his heart and stop it 3h.

traveler's diarrhea
Developed diarrhea while visiting Kenya, circa 1988. A relative gave him an herbal preparation as treatment 3k. Obama did not report if it was effective.

Obama describes his half-sister Auma saying to someone: "My brother, I think he snores" 3l. From the context of the story, it is possible the half-sister was making this up, as a joke.

head cold
Developed in Dallas in late February 2008 6.

physician's letter 2008
While running for the Presidency in 2008, Obama released a one-page letter from his physician, Dr. David L. Scheiner, summarizing 21 years of medical history MORE 5. The letter offers reassuring statements about Obama's blood pressure, cholesterol profile, electrocardiogram, and basic blood tests, including prostate specific antigen.

Comment: There is nothing inherently wrong with summarizing 21 years of medical history on one page -- if the patient has been healthy. Even so, this letter leaves a bad taste in Dr. Zebra's mouth, for several reasons: (1) It is undated. Putting a date on a document is as automatic as breathing for a physician. Why was there no date? (2) The characterization of "intermittent" smoking is unprofessional. Physicians speak in terms of "pack-years" of smoking. (3) The statement that Obama maintains a "good intake" of fluids rings false. Except for patients with various diseases, there is no call to measure fluid intake. It sounds like the physician was trying to fill space.

Is conscientious about exercising, "often jogging three miles," according to a 2008 letter from his physician MORE 5. Most of the press reports during the 2008 campaign, however, centered on his basketball playing. He was on his high school's basketball team 3f.

height & weight
Obama is 6 feet 2 inches tall, and weighs 165 pounds 1. He wears size 13 1/2 bowling shoes 4.
Odds & Ends
808 reviews
103 reviews
Cited Resources
  1. Keys, Allison. [Report on inauguration preparations]. Weekend Edition. National Public Radio. 11 January 2009.
  2. Kornblut, Anne E. Michelle Obama Weighs in on Husband's Smoking. 11 February 2008.
  3. Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father. New York: Three Rivers Press, Revised Edition, 2004 (original edition 1995).1400082773 Libraries 2004012412. ap. 36 bp. 34 cpp. 37, 38 dp. 31 ep. 35 fp. 74 gpp. 48-49 hp. 93 ipp. 100, 188, 255, 304 jp. 430 kpp. 392, 393, 394 lp. 349 mp. 22
  4. Powell, Michael. Barack bowl. New York Times [online]. 30 March 2008.
  5. Scheiner, David L. ["To whom it may concern" letter]. . undated (but apparently 29 May 2008).
    Comment: Dr. David L. Scheiner became Obama's physician in 1987. A scanned copy of the letter is available from the New York Times. The letter is undated, but the Atlantic Magazine posted its copy of the letter on May 29, 2008.
  6. Zeleny, Jeff. As Obama's rallies swell, so does his security. International Herald Tribune [on-line]. 24 February 2008.
Other Resources
Alternate index terms: Barack Hussein Obama
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