NEW YORK — On a frigid December afternoon, Dr. Harold Bornstein was talking about his most famous patient, President-elect Donald Trump.

He hadn’t spoken with Trump since the election, and had no idea whether he would be asked to move his medical practice to Washington. But he also didn’t seem particularly worried about what the stress of the job might mean for the nation’s oldest president — a distinction he hadn’t considered until this reporter pointed it out.

“It never occurred to me that he was the oldest president, not for a second,” Bornstein, 69, said in his Upper East Side office of the 70-year-old Trump. He said that “there’s nothing to share” on a regular basis about a president’s health. “Ronald Reagan had pre-senile dementia. I mean, seriously, did they share that one with you, or did Nancy just cover it up?”

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“If something happens to him, then it happens to him,” Bornstein said. “It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”

If Bornstein wasn’t interested much in discussing Trump, there was plenty else that did enthuse him. In a three-hour interview with STAT, his first since the election, Bornstein seemed more interested in talking about about how insurance companies are too powerful, how walk-in clinics poorly serve patients, and how doctors aren’t held in the same esteem as they used to be.

When Bornstein first came to the attention of the world last year, he was presented as a caricature befitting his unconventional patient of over 35 years. Pictures of him with wild hair and a seemingly goofy demeanor rocketed around the internet, along with a letter that attested Trump would be the healthiest man ever elected president.

Throughout the campaign, Bornstein attempted to avoid the media spotlight — CNN once cornered him on a bench, but when his wife, Melissa, arrived, she shut down the interview, physically pulling him through the door to his office.

His friend Wayne Harley Brachman, the pastry chef at an upscale Manhattan steakhouse who used to cohost a Food Network show, thought about offering PR advice (“you gotta take it over, and figure out what you want to say, and smile”) but he never did.

Bornstein said that, in the wake of the election, he’s been harassed on the street. One woman, upon recognizing him, said, “You’re Donald Trump’s doctor. I hope he dies!” Melissa said she has stopped answering her phone if she doesn’t recognize the number — “I’ve gotten so many harassing phone calls.”

“The take on this has not been what’s in between his ears,” Melissa later said about her husband. “It’s been what his hair looks like and what he looks like.”

The doctor initially rebuffed STAT’s requests for an interview. “Please stop this nonsense!!!” Bornstein wrote in an email in January 2016. But after STAT spoke with two of Bornstein’s sons, Melissa arranged for a sit-down in his office.

But five days after STAT’s visit to his office, in phone calls and text messages, Bornstein said he was angry and did not want the article or any photographs of him to be published.

“I happen to have known the Sulzbergers for 50 years,” Bornstein said in the second conversation, referring to the family that helms the New York Times. “I’m going to make sure you don’t ever work again if you do this.”

Doctor to the Trumps

Bornstein has cared for other members of Trump’s family, including his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as his daughter Tiffany, from Trump’s second marriage, the physician said.

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Figurines and an image of Donald Trump decorate Bornstein’s office. STAT

Bornstein has also treated Trump’s first wife, Ivana, according to a letter from Trump hanging in Bornstein’s office. The signed letter, dated Oct. 12, 2001, reads: “It is rare to almost unheard of for a doctor to make house calls anymore, so I wanted to tell you how very much I appreciated your visits to Ivana the other week – – you are terrific!” Next to the letter is a signed photograph of Ivana. “You are THE BEST!” is written in red ink.

In the interview, Bornstein said that he didn’t know he would be allowed to continue caring for the president, and that he thought a military doctor would need to care for Trump in the White House.

Most physicians to presidents have been military officers, but some presidents have chosen non-uniformed doctors.

John F. Kennedy, for instance, appointed to the role Dr. Janet Travell Powell, who had been a personal physician of his when he was a senator. And Ronald Reagan chose Dr. Daniel Ruge, a civilian doctor recommended by his father-in-law, as one of his physicians as president.

Bornstein, like Trump, would be an unconventional pick.

The back of his business cards are written in Italian, with the phrase “dottore molto famoso,” or “very famous doctor,” below his name. (For 10 years, he took private Italian lessons from women he found through Craigslist postings, paying them about $60 an hour for weekly sessions, he said.) A photograph of his psychoanalyst hangs in his office. As this reporter left his office, Bornstein pointed out what appeared to be a small, naked doll sitting on the ground — “here’s a naked doorstop.”

“He loves being this sort of creative, out of the box sort of guy nobody really understands, you know?” said his son Jeremee Bornstein, a sophomore biomedical engineering student at Tufts University.

By all accounts, Bornstein is a caring and dedicated doctor. He said that “there’s no barrier where the patients end and our personal lives begin.” Trump is no exception — Bornstein and his wife once dined at Trump’s Florida home, the doctor said.

A couple of times a year, Bornstein does “reverse house calls” — patients come to his house in Scarsdale to see him. During the interview with STAT, Melissa was putting stamps on a package — a glove that a patient had left at the office the day before. She said that one patient often brings her pea soup; another, coffee.

On a table in the waiting room, next to a case of Cialis brochures, sit a few flyers encouraging patients who feel grateful for Bornstein’s services to donate to his alma mater, Tufts University School of Medicine. One patient gave $25,000 in Bornstein’s honor.

Medicine runs in the family

Bornstein wanted to be a doctor for as long as he can remember. A photograph in his office depicts him as a smiling young boy holding a stethoscope to what appeared to be a teddy bear. In high school, he played in a band called “Doc Bornstein and the Interns.”

They played at high school dances, weddings, and private parties, the band members said. Brachman said he spent so much time at Bornstein’s house — rehearsing with the band, hanging out in a backyard clubhouse, or reenacting professional wrestling matches — that Bornstein’s mother joked he grew up there.

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Bornstein still practices medicine in the office once occupied by his father, Jacob. STAT

Bornstein was following in the footsteps of his father, Jacob, a doctor who practiced in the same Manhattan office and came from humble beginnings. Jacob grew up in a Yiddish-speaking family in Chelsea, Mass., and attended Harvard in the 1930s and ’40s as an undergraduate and for medical school, when universities had quotas for Jewish students. Melissa said that Jacob didn’t live in the dorms, but rather at home with his mother. There’s a picture of Jacob in the office from his Harvard days — “he doesn’t look like a Jewish man,” Melissa said, noting Jacob’s round glasses.

When Jacob bought the 78th Street office, its address was originally on Park Avenue. But Jacob opened up the fire door on 78th street and turned that into the main entrance, embarrassed to have an address on Park, the Bornsteins said.

“I guess he felt he never belonged here,” Bornstein said.

Regardless, Jacob found success — his patients included actress Anne Bancroft (when he met her, she was a waitress, Bornstein said), and of course Donald Trump. Bornstein thinks that one of Jacob’s patients, an electrical engineer, introduced Trump to Jacob.

Bornstein the younger started caring for Trump in 1980, giving the President-elect a checkup as recently as September. 

When asked what responsibility the president’s doctor has to share information about the president’s health with the public, Bornstein said, “Well, I’m fortunate there’s nothing seriously wrong with him. He’s a few pounds overweight, which everybody can see, and that’s it. I’ve never been able to find anything wrong with him.”

Bornstein said that Trump isn’t “an old man the way my grandfather was an old man;” meanwhile, of Clinton, he said: “She’s an old lady. She’s an old lady. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

He said that he ran into Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton’s physician, during the course of the campaign, and that he gave her a Trump pin.

Prior to last year, Bornstein said, the fact that Trump is his patient was not well-known. Other patients may have seen the photo of Bornstein and Trump that hangs in the waiting room, and one of his former bandmates recalled knowing about his friend’s celebrity patient, but it was never an issue.

Bornstein said he’s only asked the man for one thing — a volunteer position for his son Jeremee with the campaign last summer.

Jeremee worked behind the scenes, starting off with what he described as “grunt work,” like answering the mail, and eventually moving up to working with the campaign’s voter data.

“What a great experience, for an 18-year-old to go to Trump Tower in a presidential year, with this character, of all people,” Bornstein said.

‘Everybody got punished’ by Obamacare

Jeremee, meanwhile, said that politics isn’t for him — he might go into medicine, but he doesn’t know yet.

“I’m going to have to make a lot of sacrifices to do that,” Jeremee said, citing what he sees as high medical school loans and the difficulty of earning a living afterward.

He supported Trump because he wants to get rid of Obamacare, which he, like his father, sees as giving too much power to the insurance companies. Jeremee commended his father’s cleverness in saving money even as the practice of medicine becomes more expensive.

For example, when the diagnosis and billing codes that doctors are supposed to use on health insurance claims forms changed, Bornstein, instead of upgrading his computer system, came up with a different solution. He put Scotch tape over box 21 and part of box 24 on the form. After the form goes to the printer, he peels off the tape and writes in the new codes by hand.

“This is genius. He maybe pays 50 cents for Scotch tape rather than thousands of dollars for a new computer system,” Jeremee said.

Obamacare hurts patients too, Bornstein said — “Everybody got punished: the rates went up, the services went down, the deductibles went way up” — and he spoke of a better age, when health insurance was tied to employment and you got what you worked for.

“Trump was elected, really, by people that are used to paying, the center of the country,” Bornstein said. “The center of this country is the old Protestant ethic. You work, you get paid.”

At the same time, Bornstein knows that free health care has a huge appeal. For an undergraduate government paper, he spoke with residents of South Boston about what would make them vote Republican in a Democratic state. Their answer was free health care.

As for Bornstein, regardless of how he’s getting paid, he’s still taking care of patients after hours. After three hours with a reporter in his office, Bornstein got a call from his house — his great-aunt, who is also a patient of his, was headed to the emergency room across the street from his office. He and his wife put on their matching white doctors coats and headed to the hospital, to see how she was doing and make sure she got the best possible care.

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  • Let’s settle the argument on Dr. Bornstein’s knowledge of his patient, DT. A physician has no greater insight into his patient then when he is gazing at his patient’s innards through a 60 inch fiberoptic colonoscope.

  • Ted, the least you could do is spell the good doctor’s name correctly. To use your verbiage has it “occurred” to you (maybe in the mystical sense) that the Trump kids are taking on the classical role of consiglieres, the most trusted advisors to “the ruler”, as you put it. Think Tom Hagen and Don Corleone (no relation to Don Trump). Vito wouldn’t have it any other way, his mental faculties notwithstanding. Quell my curiosity. Are you the Dr. Ted Vollers with the long beard (like Dr. Bornstein) whom I’ve seen on You Tube? Actually pretty cool if you are.

    • Yes, I am. There is only one Ted Vollers on the Internet that I have ever found.

      Sorry about his name if that is not the correct spelling. When you copy and paste, you can do nothing if the original is wrong and I have no idea where I first copied it from. And comparing them to the Corleone family is perhaps very apt, if you have read all that has been said about ‘the Don’s connections’ and associates from his casino operations. I have passed this on to the author of this original article for his consideration and also to the Huffington Post but it is too early for a reply as yet since the holidays approach. I’m just following the obvious trail and its obvious interpretation here. Hopefully a journalist with their resources and training can track it down and prove it, one way or the other. This was suggested as a possibility back in August of 2016 by a ‘blogger’ who did not have this article to suggest this explanation, so it is not that far fetched an idea to explain the observations of Donald Trump’s statements and behaviors on videos. When I searched to see if it had been suggested before, I did find that it was not a new idea. If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, what are the odds that it is a squirrel?

  • Has it occurred to anyone that Dr. Bournstein might be inadvertently revealing an explanation for Donald Trump’s weird and erratic behavior in that his first thought after being told that Donald Trump was the oldest president elect to take office was to jump into an explanation of why Ronald Reagan’s pre-senile dementia condition was kept secret by his doctors and his wife while he was in office? This would explain a lot about why his family is trying to force its way into his administration to perhaps rule from the sidelines by writing his statements, making his decisions and above all, taking his “tweeter” away from him.

    • If his family “forcing” themselves on Trump is diagnostic of Alzheimer’s Disease then Reagan was quite competent as he was estranged from his children for the most part. Read Patti Davis’s memoirs and you will agree. I have worked for hard driving CEO’s whose 3am emails ( forerunner of Twitter) were not “normal” but never suggested mental incompetence.

    • Perhaps try reading what was actually said. They are thrusting themselves on us as our rulers and to protect Donald Trump from the exposure of his possible condition.

  • Very glad he allowed the article to run after all.
    His approach is definitely 1970’s hippie but the pearls in this interview are true. Who cares if the POTUS is perfect that is why we have the chain of future command. Who cares about the PC situation of using the Military physician. If POTUS wants Bornstein then it seems that he will serve at the honor
    As far as ACA goes come on people it is gone; stop bellyaching about it. The issue is not IF it is HOW we destroy it. Do we nuke it day one or bleed it out over 18 months to give time to rebuild a smaller rule list to keep parts of the ACA is the only real issue.
    The reality is the ACA has hurt far more then it helped. It focused on a selected 20 million people ignoring the 320 million who had adequate coverage. Now everyone has some deficit and no one wins. The ACA literally hurt everyone aspect of society except the 20 million and in fact of the 20 million half still are not covered because they don’t prioritize their needs
    We can’t force everyone to be covered this is not NAZI Germany if someone opts out let them be, but stop penalizing the majority for this minority. This is supposed to be the nation of the majority rules. The 320 million had insurance now they have higher premiums and higher deductibles and higher max out of pockets so how does this serve the majority of the public. Stop bleeding for the few, sometimes it is better to serve the larger at the expense of the rest. This is one of those times. InsCos lost, PharmaCos lost, citizens lost, physicians lost, the ONLY people to win were Obama for going into the history books as taking on the industry and the few folks who wanted coverage and couldn’t get it do to pre-existing conditions. They could have been tossed on Medicare for a LOT less cost then the ACA.
    Dr Dave

    • We are not a country of majority rules as was just shown with Clinton getting 3 million more votes then Trump.

  • He is representative of the doctors whose views of Obamacare show us the frustration of giving care and ” coding ” of procedure within the insurance form. Medical care is very individually done but insurance wants to code it selectively to keep claims down in cost. The more claims denied by incorrect wording codes the more PROFIT for the insurance and less care for patients. I hope he remains the doctor for Trump,as we need his input to improve healthcare.

  • Yeah, brilliant, put tape on your insurance claim forms and remove it when you are done… I’m sure your insurers love that! Lazy and arrogant.

  • “…For 10 years, he took private Italian lessons from women he found through Craigslist postings, paying them about $60 an hour for weekly sessions, he said…” Why just women?
    Creepy old men! I keep seeing them lately, they’re emboldened thanks to DT.

  • Bornstein has “the look” of something “the Dude” dragged in and threw up on his well-appointed rug.
    Seriously, Hillary looks 10 times younger & better than Trump & Bornstein, who both look exactly like the saggy, scraggly old men they are! That Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is STILL a handsome devil!

  • If you look at photos of med students from 1975 a lot of them look like Bornstein. People have completely missed the point of the generality of his medical evaluation of DT. Anything a doctor puts in writing can wind up as a legal document, and it could be hard to challenge the idea that DT MAY be the healthiest guy elected ON THE DATE he was elected, November 8th, 2016.

    Take on the other hand Dr. Lisa Bardack, who is more typical of JFK’s doctor, who deliberately waged a disinformation campaign to convince us how healthy JFK was when in fact ON THE DATE he was elected JFK had serious medical problems. Remember that youthful “tan”. In reality JFK had Addison’s Disease from adrenal tuberculosis and his “tan” was from hormone replacement shots. It was only at his autopsy that we learned he had to be strapped into a back brace from a spinal condition.

    Dr. Bardack makes the mistake of being too specific in her attempts to mislead the public about HRC’s health. Being on anticoagulation therapy is serious business and it does not come about from a simple concussion without there being significant enough damage to cause thrombosis.

    Any good doctor will tell you that 80% of a diagnosis comes from history, and in Clinton’s case it’s on the videotape. Several respected neurologists have reviewed her case and find Bardack’s diagnosis of “pneumonia” at the 9/11 event misleading. HRC has exhibited an ataxic gait requiring assistance, episodes of “staring” that resemble petit mal attacks, and severe enough diplopia to require the use of prescription eyeglasses with Fresnel lenses. Add in the anticoagulation therapy and a diagnosis of transverse sinus thrombosis, which is pretty serious, has been offered, can’t call it allergies, Lisa. In fact if HRC were elected and she stroked out in office that would be serious although I’m sure Vlad would send flowers.

    • More than half the people in the world have blood that is too thick and need or will need anticoagulant therapy. I think the number is 70% of the world’s population. I read this a long time ago while investigating blood disorders. You probably have the condition yourself. People who have blood clot/cardiac events in airplanes probably have the condition. The advice you get to get up and walk around on a long flight to avoid blood clots is given to those with thick blood. V Leiden syndrome is a possible cause but there can be other reasons for clotting disorders. Dehydration contributes. It doesn’t mean you’re old. It doesn’t mean you are unfit. And the Fresnel lenses are part of Hillary’s recovery. She doesn’t use them now. You have evidently never had pneumonia. It can knock you on your butt.

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