Historical Highlights

The Capitol’s First Attending Physician, Dr. George Calver

October 11, 1966
The Capitol’s First Attending Physician, Dr. George Calver Image courtesy of Library of Congress The first Attending Physician of the Capitol, Dr. George Calver once quipped, “I’m the only man [the Members] can’t talk back to on Capitol Hill.”
On this date, the first Attending Physician of the Capitol retired. Before 1928, Members of Congress relied solely on area hospitals for medical treatment. Prompted by the slow response to assist several Members who fell ill during the 70th Congress (1927–1929), the House passed a resolution on December 5, 1928, directing the Secretary of the Navy to assign a medical officer to provide health care for Representatives. Dr. George Calver, a George Washington University School of Medicine graduate, received the three-year assignment. Calver immediately began an aggressive campaign to advise Members of the perils of their fast-paced work environment, which he maintained was one of the more strenuous occupations in the country. His quality care prompted the Senate to adopt a concurrent resolution in April 1930 that instructed Calver to oversee the well-being of both Representatives and Senators—a development which led to the creation of the Office of the Attending Physician. “To me there’s no difference between a Republican bellyache and a Democratic bellyache,” Calver once remarked. His great popularity, rooted in his nonpartisan treatment of his patients, led Congress to pass legislation to prevent his reassignment, increase his rank, and provide for a raise. Calver’s grim warnings to Members—especially during the Great Depression—received national press coverage. His preventive approach to medicine was best captured in his legendary “Commandments of Health.” Prominently posted throughout the Capitol, Calver’s nine commandments directed Members to exercise, eat well, and “relax completely.” Reflecting upon his nearly four decade career—which spanned eight Speakers of the House from Nicholas Longworth of Ohio to John McCormack of Massachusetts —Calver took some of his own advice when he proclaimed, “it’s time for a rest and some fishing.”

Related Highlight Subjects