Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson has served with Navy bomb disposal units and instructed underwater salvage teams.
His latest assignment: defusing doubts about the health and mental fitness of the nation’s 71-year-old president.
For nearly an hour Tuesday, Jackson stood in the White House briefing room, answering questions from reporters about President Trump’s physical exam, conducted last Friday. His lectern-side manner was both professional and disarming — the polar opposite of Trump’s personal physician, who drew ridicule with his medical pronouncements on the candidate back in 2015.
Where Dr. Harold Bornstein was shaggy and sensational, Jackson was all business, reading off test results in his blue and gold dress uniform.
And the clean bill of health he delivered was just what the president ordered.
“He said, ‘I want you to get out there and I want you to talk to them and I want you to answer every single question they have,’ ” Jackson said.
The presentation was both folksy and matter-of-fact, as Jackson described the president’s eyesight, cognitive skills and heart function as excellent, despite Trump’s lack of exercise and fondness for fast food.
“It’s called genetics,” Jackson said. “Some people have just great genes. I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years he might live to be 200 years old.”
What about that time the president seemed to slur his words during a speech on Jerusalem? Jackson blamed a dry mouth, possibly caused by a decongestant. He joked that he knew just how the president felt.
“Me being up here right now, I think I need a drink of water,” he said.
Just to be safe, Jackson and an ear, nose and throat specialist ran some extra tests and found nothing amiss.
Jackson said the president could stand to lose 10 to 15 pounds. He’ll be working with White House cooks to cut calories, while encouraging Trump to get some low-impact exercise.
“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet part than the exercise part but we’re going to do both,” Jackson said. “He’s just like every other president I’ve taken care of. On occasion, I have to get the first lady involved to make sure he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Jackson has cared for three presidents since joining the White House medical unit in 2006. He was formally named physician to the president in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama.
Jackson grew up in West Texas and attended Texas A&M and the University of Texas Medical Branch. The Navy doctor, who specializes in emergency medicine, has served at Pearl Harbor, Panama City, Fla., and with a forward-deployed surgical platoon in Iraq.
The battle-tested doctor wasn’t taking any chances as he stepped in front of the microphones on Tuesday. He reminded reporters that as chief White House physician, he sometimes provides medical care for reporters who get sick while covering the president.
“If something should happen to you over the next few months and you should fall ill at some point, most likely I will be the one called to come take care of you,” he said. “So when you ask your questions please keep that in mind.”