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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama is in 'excellent health' and fit to be president, his doctor says

May 30, 2008|Scott Martelle | Times Staff Writer

Although he hasn't had a physical in 16 months, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has been in "excellent health" and is medically fit to serve as president, his longtime doctor wrote in a letter released by the campaign Thursday.

The one-page medical overview came with no supporting documentation.

Still, campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "With no surgery or hospital stays, this is a complete summary of his doctor visits and medical records for the past two decades."

The letter, written by Dr. David L. Scheiner of Chicago, noted that Obama, 46, had a family history of cancer. His mother died of ovarian cancer and a grandfather of prostate cancer.

A prostate-specific antigen test -- generally recommended annually for men over 45 who are African American or otherwise at a high risk of prostate cancer, and often suggested annually for other men over 50 -- detected no issues for Obama. The campaign did not say when he is expected to be screened again.

The Illinois senator has smoked intermittently over the years, Scheiner wrote in the overview, but is now "using Nicorette gum with success."

"His build was lean and muscular with no excess body fat," Scheiner said, based on Obama's last physical, conducted Jan. 15, 2007. "His physical examination was completely normal."

The brief letter contrasted with Sen. John McCain's decision to let a selected group of reporters spend three hours with about 1,200 pages of health records last week.

The records showed that McCain, 71, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, is in good health, although he has a 15-year history of skin cancers, including a minor case in February, and has had bouts with precancerous polyps in his colon, kidney cysts and bladder stones.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has not made her medical records public. Her campaign did not respond to inquiries Thursday about whether she would.

Dr. Michael Karp of USC's Keck School of Medicine, who reviewed the letter from Obama's doctor, said Obama's reported levels for cholesterol and blood pressure were in the "optimal" range and agreed that, based on the overview, he "looks like he's in excellent health."

Scheiner, on staff at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Rush University Medical Center, said that he had been Obama's doctor for 21 years and that Obama had "been seen regularly for medical checkups and various minor problems such as upper respiratory infections, skin rashes and minor injuries."

At the time of last year's checkup, Obama was exercising regularly and following a balanced diet.

Obama spent Thursday off the campaign trail but he heads to Montana today.

Montana and South Dakota hold the Democratic Party's final primaries Tuesday, after a contest Sunday in Puerto Rico.

Clinton was in South Dakota on Thursday.

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scott.martelle@latimes.com

Times staff writer Louise Roug in South Dakota contributed to this report.

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