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Parkinson's expert makes frequent visits to the White House for eight months

Parkinson's expert makes frequent visits to the White House for eight months

According to official visitor logs, a Parkinson’s disease expert from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center visited the White House eight times over an eight-month period from last summer to last spring, and met at least once with President Biden’s doctor.

The expert, Dr. Kevin Cannard, is a neurologist specializing in movement disorders who recently published a paper on Parkinson’s. The logs, released by the White House, document visits from July 2023 to March of this year. More recent visits, if any, would not be disclosed until later, according to the White House’s voluntary disclosure policy.

It is unclear whether Dr. Cannard was in the White House specifically to consult with the president or for unrelated meetings. Dr. Cannard’s LinkedIn page describes him as “supporting the White House Medical Unit” for more than 12 years. His bio on Doximity, a website for health professionals, lists him as “a neurological consultant to the White House Medical Unit and physician to the president” from 2012 to 2022, which includes the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump.

Records from the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden was vice president, show that Dr. Cannard made 10 visits in 2012, plus one family visit; four visits in 2013 and one in 2014. Records from 2015 and 2016 were not immediately available online. Mr. Trump revoked the policy of voluntary disclosure of Mr. Obama’s White House visits, so records from his four years in office are not available.

Dr. Cannard did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The White House did not specifically comment on the purpose of his recent visits. “A wide variety of specialists from the Walter Reed system visit the White House complex to care for the thousands of military personnel who work there,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Mr. Bates said the president “has been to a neurologist once a year” as part of his annual physical and “that exam found no signs of Parkinson’s and he is not being treated for it.” He declined to provide dates of any meetings between Mr. Biden and any of his specialists, but said “there have been no neurological visits other than his annual physical, three in total.”

Dr. Cannard met with Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the White House physician, and Dr. John Atwood, a cardiologist at Walter Reed, on Jan. 17, and with another person in the early afternoon at the White House residence clinic, records show. That meeting came a month before Mr. Biden was scheduled for his final annual medical checkup at Walter Reed on Feb. 28.

In a six-page letter released after that checkup, Dr. O'Connor said the president's medical team had conducted “an extremely detailed neurological examination” that had yielded “no findings that would be consistent with” Parkinson's, stroke or other central neurological disorders. Dr. O'Connor did not say whether the exam included common tests to assess cognitive decline or detect signs of dementia that are often recommended for older adults.

The White House has said in recent days that there has been no reason to conduct additional testing since February. Questions about Mr. Biden’s health, particularly regarding Parkinson’s, have proliferated since his disastrous debate performance against Mr. Trump on June 27. In interviews with ABC News on Friday and MSNBC on Monday, Mr. Biden said he has been undergoing the equivalent of a neurological exam every day because of the pressures of presidential duties.

Visitor logs, which have also been reported by other news organizations, including The New York Post and The Guardian, indicate that Dr. Cannard’s first recorded visit to the White House during the Biden administration was on November 15, 2022. The logs indicate that he was visiting Joshua Simmons, whose title is not listed.

Dr. Cannard’s other eight most recent visits began on July 28, 2023, when he was recorded as meeting with Megan Nasworthy, a White House liaison to Walter Reed. She was recorded as the person visited for seven of those meetings, which consistently occurred early, between 7 and 9 a.m. on Friday, except for the last meeting, which occurred on Thursday, March 28, the day before Good Friday. Records indicate a 10th visit that appeared to be for a family tour of the White House.

At the time of the first meetings, Dr. Cannard published a research article in the journal Parkinsonism and related disorders on the early stages of Parkinson's.

A series of neurologists who have not personally examined Mr. Biden said they had observed symptoms in his public appearances that were consistent with Parkinson’s or a related disease, such as hypophonic speech, a hunched posture, a shuffling gait, a masked face and an irregular speech pattern. However, they stressed that a specific diagnosis could not be made without a firsthand examination.

Mr. Bates, the White House spokesman, said earlier that Dr. O’Connor found no reason to reevaluate Mr. Biden for Parkinson’s disease after his February medical exam. Mr. Bates also said the president had shown no signs of Parkinson’s and had never taken Levodopa or other medications for the condition.

In his interview with ABC News on Friday, Mr. Biden declined to accept an independent neurological and cognitive exam. “I take a cognitive test every day,” he said, meaning that the unique challenges of the presidency have tested him daily.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday morning, Mr. Biden insisted again that his confusion and slurred speech during the debate were an aberration due in part to an infection or other minor ailment and were not a sign of a more serious medical problem.

“If there was something wrong that night, it's not like it comes and goes that night,” he said. “That's why I went out. I challenged myself, I challenged myself everywhere I went. I went out and made my case. The night of that debate, I went out. I was out until 2 in the morning that night. That night. It drives me crazy, people are talking about it.”

By Alice Godman

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