On This Day, Jan. 26, 1961 – John Kennedy Appoints First Woman as President’s Personal Physician

JFK in Senate Office Rocker

1961U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Janet G. Travell as the first woman to be the “personal physician to the President”.

t was during her time studying arterial diseases at Beth Israel Hospital in New York as a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation fellow (1939-1941) that Dr. Travell became absorbed in the problems of skeletal muscle pain. Dr. Travell helped develop new anesthetic techniques for treating painful muscle spasm by employing local procaine injection and vapocoolant sprays such as ethyl chloride (used widely in sports medicine today.) It was this pioneering expertise that changed her life in more ways than one. In 1955 she was called upon by the orthopedic surgeon of then Senator John F. Kennedy, who had failed to recover from major back surgeries related to injuries he suffered in World War II. Dr. Travell was able to locate muscular sources for his chronic pain, and injected low-level procaine directly into the Senator’s lumbar muscles, which proved effective. She also discovered that one of Kennedy’s legs was shorter than the other, and ordered special shoes that would relieve the stress this condition put on his back. Without the medical expertise of Dr. Travell, Kennedy and his family were convinced that his political career would have come to a premature end.

When John Kennedy was elected President in 1960, he appointed Dr. Travell to the post of Personal Physician to the President, making her the first woman to hold the position. She advocated his use of a rocking chair to alleviate President Kennedy’s back pain and in the process popularized their use among the public, who saw the President pictured in his rocker in the Oval Office. (Dr. Travell took aspects of seating design seriously, and worked as a consultant to such companies as John Deere and Lockheed to produce more comfortable and supportive seats for tractors and airplanes.) Dr. Travell would go on to serve President Lyndon Johnson after the death of President Kennedy, and left the White House in 1965.

1500 – Vicente Yáñez Pinzón discovered Brazil.

1784 – In a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness over the eagle as the symbol of America. He wanted the symbol to be the turkey.

1788 – The first European settlers in Australia, led by Captain Arthur Phillip, landed in what became known as Sydney. The group had first settled at Botany Bay eight days before. This day is celebrated as Australia Day.

1802Congress passed an act calling for a library to be established within the U.S. Capitol.

1827 – Peru seceded from Colombia in protest against Simón Bolívar’s alleged tyranny.

1837Michigan became the 26th state to join the United States.

1841 – Britain formally occupied Hong Kong, which the Chinese had ceded to the British.

1861 – In the U.S., Louisiana seceded from the Union.

1870 – The state of Virginia rejoined the Union.

1875 – George F. Green patented the electric dental drill for sawing, filing, dressing and polishing teeth.

1911 – Inventor Glenn H. Curtiss flew the first successful seaplane.

1934 – The Apollo Theatre opened in New York City.

1942 – The first American expeditionary force to go to Europe during World War II went ashore in Northern Ireland.

1950 – India officially proclaimed itself a republic as Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as president.

1992 – Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced that his country would stop targeting U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

1993 – Former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel was elected president of the new Czech Republic.

1994 – In Sydney, Australia, a young man lunged at and fired two blank shots at Britain’s Prince Charles.

1996First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before a grand jury concerning the Whitewater probe.

1998President Bill Clinton denied having an affair with a former White House intern, saying “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

2009 – The first trial at the International Criminal Court was held. Former Union of Congolese Patriots leader Thomas Lubanga was accused of training child soldiers to kill, pillage, and rape.

2010 – It was announced that James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” had become the highest-grossing film worldwide.


Source: On-This-Day.com; Pain-Education.com


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