Daniel Ruge: the first neurosurgeon to serve as physician to the president

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The role of chief White House physician has traditionally been held by an individual with a background in a broad medical field, such as emergency medicine, family medicine, or internal medicine. Dr. Daniel Ruge, who served as the director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service for the Veterans Administration and was appointed during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, was the first neurosurgeon to become the chief White House physician. Aside from being the first neurosurgeon to serve in this capacity, Dr. Ruge also stands apart from others who have held this esteemed position because of how he handled Reagan’s care after an attempt was made on the then-president’s life. Instead of calling upon leading medical authorities of the time to care for the president, Dr. Ruge instead decided that Reagan should be treated as any trauma patient would be treated. Dr. Ruge’s actions after the assassination attempt on President Reagan resulted in the rapid, smooth recovery of the then-president. Daniel Ruge’s background, his high-profile roles and heavy responsibilities, and his critical decision-making are characteristics that make his role in the history of medicine and of neurosurgery unique.

ABBREVIATIONS VA = Veterans Administration.

Article Information

Correspondence Nicholas Theodore: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD. theodore@jhmi.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online October 5, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.4.JNS172384.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Dr. Ruge with President Ronald Reagan. Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (photograph is in the public domain). Figure is available in color online only.

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    Dr. Ruge in 1978 (far left), receiving the Outstanding Alumnus Award from North Central College, his alma mater. Courtesy of North Central College, Naperville, Illinois.


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