Coronavirus USA: Who is Sean Conley, the Trump doctor that is giving the updates?

The Physician to the President, Dr. Sean Conley, has been launched into the spotlight giving daily briefings to the public on the president's health as he battles Covid-19.

Coronavirus USA: Who is Sean Conley, the Trump doctor that is giving the updates?
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP

On Friday morning the world learned via a tweet from President Donald J. Trump that he and the First Lady had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Originally, he had planned to self-isolate in the White House to continue carrying out his duties there but that afternoon he boarded Marine One and was flown to Walter Reed Hospital on the recommendation of Sean P. Conley the Physician to the President.

Daily briefings raise doubts about the President's true condition

Saturday morning, shortly before noon, Dr. Conley gave a press conference backed up by a team of doctors, where he gave an upbeat assessment of the President's condition saying “The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made." However, his comments were contradicted not long after when Mark Meadows, the President's chief of staff, told reporters that the President's vital signs over the past 24 had been very concerning and that the next 48 hours would be critical.

This wasn't the only contradictory statement on the President's condition. During his press conference Dr. Conley said that the President's symptoms were improving but that he was 72 hours into the diagnosis, which would have meant that Trump was already positive when he attended his rally in Duluth, Minnesota on Wednesday. Dr. Conley walked back his statements, saying that Trump was in day three of his diagnosis, and the positive confirmation was made Thursday night.

He has also been criticized for his use of verb tense when asked about whether or not Trump had been put on oxygen as had been reported in the media saying originally "he is not on oxygen right now." However, in a press conference on Sunday he confirmed that, in fact, Trump had been placed on oxygen twice. The first episode was late Friday morning and the second on Saturday sowing doubt about the truthfulness of his statement about the use of oxygen. In is Sunday briefing he expressed that he wasn't hiding the truth but trying to keep spirits up.  Trump is also being treated with a steroid dexamethasone, which reduces inflammation in the lungs. This treatment has made some experts question if the president's condition is truly as rosy as his medical team is painting it.

So, who Dr. Sean P. Conley the Physician to the President?

Dr. Conley, a U.S. Navy commander, has been in his current position since 2018 when he took over from Dr. Ronny Jackson when he was nominated by President Trump to be the Director of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Conley is a 2002 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and got a medical degree in osteopathic medicine in 2006 from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. As an osteopathic physician Dr. Conley underwent training similar to traditional medical doctor, finishing his residency in 2013 at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, which means he can perform surgery and prescribe medicine.

He joined the navy and served as an emergency doctor starting in 2006. In 2014 he was stationed in Kandahar where he and his team received a commendation from the Romanian Forces after they saved the life of a Romanian soldier. Prior to going to the White House he served as research director of the emergency medicine department at the Portsmouth Navy Medical Center.

Dr. Conley's time at the White House

His tenure as the White House doctor, as the position is commonly referred to, hasn't been without controversy. In the president's physical in February last year he stated that Trump was in "very good health. I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, and beyond." However, in November 2019 the president was mysteriously taken to Walter Reed to undergo "routine, planned interim check-up." But rumors circulated about the real reasons with Trump tweeting in September this year that the visit wasn't because he had had a series of mini-strokes.

When speaking to a group of restaurant executives in May of this year, Trump stunned his audience when he announced that he was taking the hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, under the guidance of Dr. Conley. Less than a month before The Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using the drug outside of hospital settings or clinical trials due to the risk of heart rhythm problems.  It has since not been found to be an effective treatment for Covid-19 in several studies.  Dr. Conley defended the decision in a memo that he and the President had many discussions regarding the risks and benifits of using the treatment as a preventative measure against the coronavirus.