Dr. Ronny Jackson, picked by President Donald Trump to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, has served as White House physician to three presidents.
Jackson went into active naval service in 1995 after getting his medical degree from University of Texas Medical Branch. He went on to become the honor graduate of the Navy’s Undersea Medical Officer Program in Groton, Conn., before obtaining more credentials in emergency medicine.
He served as an emergency doctor specializing in resuscitating troops while deployed to Iraq in 2005 with the Surgical Shock Trauma Platoon in Taqaddum, Iraq.
While Jackson was still in Iraq, the President George W. Bush administration selected him to be a White House physician under Air Force Brigadier General Richard Tubb. In 2013, then President Barack Obama appointed him to the top role, and he remained there when Trump took office.
He gained a degree of fame unusual for White House physicians in 2017 when he took questions from the White House press corps on national television, discussing at length the president’s physical exam.
Trump, the oldest first-term president in American history, was plagued at the time by questions about his physical health, weight and mental stability. But Jackson gave the president top rating.
“The president’s overall health is excellent,” Jackson declared at the time. “His cardiac performance during his physical exam was very good. He continues to enjoy the significant long-term cardiac and overall health benefits that come from a lifetime of abstinence from tobacco and alcohol. … All clinical data indicates that the president is currently very healthy.”
As the White House doctor, Jackson is responsible for attending not only to the president but also to the first family, the vice president, White House staff and people visiting the White House, including heads of state and civilian guests.
Jackson was recently nominated for a promotion in rank, though it is unclear whether he will remain an active-duty officer if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Running the VA, the second-largest federal government department, would be a considerable shift from Jackson’s current role.