There is no denying when public figures experience medical issues they can draw greater awareness and attention toward disease prevention; informing society and providing beneficial education. But, the hospitalization of the First Lady, who is thankfully expected to make a full recovery for a “benign kidney condition,” raises concerns surrounding the intersection of patient privacy and a loved one seeking and holding elective office. Should an unelected citizen be unduly compelled to reveal any aspect of their health status?
Many would argue that when someone runs for public office, everything is fair game. Perhaps it is time to re-examine that issue. Where does it say that politicians or those who love them forgo their right to protected, privileged healthcare and communications that the rest of society steadfastly values? Where does it say that to guarantee some privacy they must resort to distraction or subterfuge compounding an already stressful situation?
As many media outlets have reported, the President waited till the conclusion of the procedure to visit his wife at the hospital because the “press pool has to follow him wherever he goes” was the refrain. Think about that for a moment.
What if a spouse, child or another family member of a President is given a dire prognosis or requires a particularly risky operation. Is it ethical to add an additional burden, the cloak and dagger maneuvers aimed at maintaining privacy especially during crucial, often emotionally overwhelming early stages of diagnosis? Is depriving the patient of family support to guarantee information remains protected, even if later released at their discretion, worth the additional strain or pressure it generates?
The media has done a relatively good job when it comes to Presidents’ children being off limits. With all of the Presidents that have resided in the White House, it is unlikely their children had completely uneventful childhoods. This must be evidence that the press places a premium and value on being on the right side of bioethics.
Isn’t it time we reflect through our actions the humane society we so desire? A person undergoing medical treatment is vulnerable and existentially stressed. No matter who the patient is, shouldn’t their choices and disclosure be entirely at their discretion without external influence? Given the respectful coverage to date regarding Mrs. Trump’s hospitalization, it seems like civility is within our grasp. And, that’s progress.
Dr. Jamie Wells, MD, FAAP, is an award-winning Board-Certified physician with over a decade of experience caring for patients and the Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. She served as a Clinical Instructor/Attending at NYU Langone, Mt. Sinai-Beth Israel and St. Vincent's Medical Centers in Manhattan. Dr. Wells graduated from Yale University with honors, was inducted as a junior and elected President of Jefferson Medical College's Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society and has been named a New York Super Doctor, repeatedly, in the NY Times magazine supplement listing the top 5% of physicians in over 30 medical specialties as chosen by their peers.
A National Merit Scholar, Dr. Wells was identified for her academic excellence early on when she was selected by the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) for its prestigious Research Science Institute (RSI) and was featured as one of the top twenty high school students in the nation in USA TODAY as a recipient of their scholarship. At Yale, she was President of the Yale Science and Engineering Association, majored in American Studies and concentrated in media and film, spending her final year researching her senior essay entitled, "Ebola: The Making of an Epidemic"-- exploring the power of the governmental, political, public health and media machines and their desire to work in harmony when there is a common economic concern. In medical school, she maintained various leadership and elected positions (such as Editorials Editor of the school paper and editing guides to passing Board Exams) while creating mentoring and tutoring programs and spearheading countless volunteer activities that served the school and local Philadelphia communities. During this time, she did research for the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus of patients with Essential Tremor and Parkinson's Disease.
She was a grant reviewer for Komen's 2018-2019 Community Grants Program and has judged the local, district and world championships for Dean Kamen’s F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) robotics competition as well as the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen scholarship competition for which she was recently nominated and, subsequently, elected to be a member of its Board of Directors. Dr. Wells is on the Leadership Council of The Wistar Institute (the nation's first independent biomedical research facility and certified cancer center). She has been awarded America's Top Pediatricians, America’s Top Physicians Honors of Distinction and Excellence, Compassionate Doctors Award, Patients Choice Award (honors given by patients to less than 3% of the nation's 720,000 active physicians) and been recognized for her exemplary care of those with Cystic Fibrosis. Dr. Wells was named a Doctor of Excellence which profiles the world’s leading doctors who have demonstrated success and leadership in their profession. For the better part of a decade, she answered all of the medical inquiries on line for the Boomer Esiason Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's website in a section entitled, ASK DR. WELLS.
Whether she is published, for example, in the acclaimed journal Neoreviews for a case involving a near drowning of an infant via water birth, USA Today regarding the mysterious illness of US diplomats in Cuba or the Huffington Post in response to the Dolce & Gabbana controversy or 10 ways to Save Your Life or the Life of a Loved One, it is a longstanding passion of hers to make science and health understanding accessible to all. She champions empowering others to be their own advocate in healthcare and has given talks to various audiences from struggling expectant mothers and parenting groups to undergraduates, spoken on panels as well as emphasized education to patients under her care. Believing she wanted to be a brain surgeon, she began her first residency in neurosurgery, ultimately switching fields to pediatrics. As a result, her knowledge is vast in the medical realm and sought after by innumerable media outlets.
Dr. Wells’ greatest asset is making complicated material palatable for people in a nonthreatening, often humorous way. Her opinion as a medical expert has been showcased on live and taped local, national and international television programs that run the gamut from CNN, Fox National News Channel, ABC News, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera TV, NY 1, CBS, TLC, Fox Business Network, Fox 5, Parent TV, CUNY-TV, My 9, Arise TV and so on having been featured in an hour length show on Discovery Health and, repeatedly, on Sirius Radio for Martha Stewart Living. She is a huge proponent of the health benefits of animals and was certified with her adorable and gifted English Bulldog, Mollie Joe, as a therapy team.
We asked New York City to guess her profession and no one got it right: