Anyone with a TV, tablet or smartphone has seen the media cover the health of the two 2016 presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have now released their particular selection of medical records. There actually is no formal requirement to disclose health records. That makes it difficult to determine if a candidate has provided enough information. Both Trump and Clinton had their chief personal physician write a “clearance” letter.
One pundit raised a point that caught our attention. While reading Trump’s medical letter, written by Dr. Harold Bornstein, MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow noted that his primary care doctor is a Gastroenterologist.
Trump Doctor: What’s So Special About Gastroenterology?
A gastroenterologist does not provide “general” medical care. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, it is a “physician with dedicated training and unique experience in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver.” Clinton’s doctor, Dr. Lisa Bardack, practices internal medicine. When we think about a primary care physician, we usually imagine a family practice or internal medicine doctor. Strangely, Trump and Dr. Bornstein both state that he isn’t being treated for any digestive system-related condition.
How Unusual is Having a Gastroenterologist Act as Primary Care Doctor?
We reached out to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to learn more about the professional understanding of who is best suited to manage a patient’s overall care.
“By definition, a gastroenterologist is a sub-specialist and not a primary care physician. Gastroenterologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of health issues related to the digestive system, while primary physicians diagnose and treat conditions of all organ systems. Thus, a gastroenterologist likely has less experience dealing with heart, lung, neurological or skeletal issues, for example,” said Leslie Champlin, AAFP’s Senior Public Relations Strategist.
While we had her, we asked about the TV doctors assessing certain physical characteristics of each candidate, even interpreting or challenging the reports of their doctors.
“Medical ethics prohibit a physician from commenting on a person’s health because it would violate that person’s privacy. Moreover, it’s unethical to comment on a person’s health if the physician has not personally examined the person. Because it could lead to an inaccurate label or diagnosis, and speculation about the person that could be far from the truth.”