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Donald Trump has often boasted of surrounding himself with “the best people” and the medical skills of Dr Sean Conley, the personal physician now charged with steering the US president back to health through his encounter with Covid-19, have never been called into question.
In attempting to present a true picture of the state of Trump’s health this weekend, however, Conley has shown a less-than-steady hand. Two bumpy press conferences in consecutive days on the steps of Maryland’s Walter Reed military medical center have raised more questions than answers, and have some wondering if Trump himself is controlling the information he is allowing his most senior doctor to release.
Conley was named the acting White House physician in March 2018 when Trump’s first choice, Dr Ronny Jackson, withdrew. Trained as an osteopath, Conley, who is also a US navy commander, was confirmed to the role two months later.
Until Saturday, other than an eyebrow-raising signing off on Trump taking the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine in June, Conley has remained out of the spotlight.
But in Saturday’s first press conference, hours after the president was airlifted to hospital by helicopter, Conley was evasive when questioned on the medical detail of Trump’s condition, such as his oxygen levels and effect of the virus on his internal organs. He opted instead to give an upbeat portrayal of Trump’s health, using vague phrases including “doing very well” and “no cause for concern”.
Sunday’s briefing was a near-repeat, short on precise detail or complete answers, yet painting a rosy picture that included an assertion from one doctor in the medical team that Trump could be discharged as early as Friday.
The president, Conley claimed, had “continued to improve” despite admitting Trump had needed supplemental oxygen in recent days on at least two occasions that he had previously denied, and was now taking a third drug – the steroid dexamethasone – on top of doses of the antivirals REGN-COV2 and remdesivir.
Puzzlingly, Conley also said he gave such an upbeat assessment the previous day because “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction”.
The overall effect of the two press conferences was to leave medical experts, political analysts and the public at large still searching for the truth as to how sick the US president really is.
Suspicions that Conley was only revealing what the president was allowing him to were fuelled on Sunday by reports that Trump was “rip pissed” with Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, for giving reporters a contradictory and more serious account of his health after the Saturday briefing.
“It came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Conley said on Sunday. “The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”
How soon Trump is released from Walter Reed remains to be seen, but Conley’s confusing and conflicting statements over the weekend have done little to quell speculation that the decision, when made, could be a political calculation as much as any call on medical grounds.
Conley was born in Pennsylvania in 1980 and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006 before undertaking a medical residency at a navy base in Virginia. He also served in Afghanistan, acting as head of a trauma unit at a multinational Nato base.
As a military doctor, he was considered perfect for a role at the White House, which traditionally recruits doctors who have served.
Conley met his wife Kristin at medical school and the couple have two sons and a daughter, who was born during her father’s tour of duty in Afghanistan. Kristin Conley works as a doctor of internal medicine for the Frederick Health medical group in Maryland.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sean Conley: Trump doctor whose updates are raising questions | US news