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CNN Classroom Edition: The First Patient

  • Story Highlights
  • Students will examine the role and responsibilities of the White House physician
  • Students will learn about the history and process of U.S. presidential succession
  • Students will learn about different types of stress and stressors
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(CNN Student News) -- Record the CNN Classroom Edition: The First Patient when it airs commercial-free on Monday, August 11, 2008, from 4:00 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN. (A short feature begins at 4:00 a.m. and precedes the program.)

Program Overview

U.S. presidents often find themselves under severe physical and mental strains, whether these stem from an assassination attempt, the common cold or major surgery. An elite team of White House physicians works around the clock and around the world to address everyday health concerns and emergency situations facing, arguably, the nation's most powerful and important patient. In The First Patient, CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the health demands of being commander-in-chief and the challenges facing presidential doctors.

Grade Levels: 6-12

Subject Areas: Health, Social Studies, U.S. History, Civics, Contemporary Issues

Objectives

This CNN Classroom Edition: The First Patient and its corresponding discussion questions and activities challenge students to:

  1. Examine the role and responsibilities of the White House physician,
  2. Learn about the history and process of U.S. presidential succession,
  3. Learn about different types of stress and stressors and how the body responds to different types of stress.

Curriculum Connections

Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

Standard VI. Power, Authority and Governance: Students will understand the historical development of structures of power, authority and governance and their evolving functions in contemporary U.S. society as well as other parts of the world.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (http://www.socialstudies.org/standards/) are published by the National Council for Social Studies (http://ncss.org/).

Curriculum Standards for Civics and Government

What is Government and What Should it Do?

Standard 4: Understands the concept of a constitution, the various purposes that constitutions serve, and the conditions that contribute to the establishment and maintenance of constitutional government

Level III Grade: 6-8

Benchmark 6: Knows how constitutions have been used to protect individual rights and promote the common good (e.g., First Amendment, Nineteenth Amendment in the United States Constitution)

McREL: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks), 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014.

Health Standards

Standard 4: Knows how to maintain mental and emotional health

Level III Grade : 6-8

Benchmark 1: Knows strategies to manage stress and feelings caused by disappointment, separation, or loss (e.g., talking over problems with others, understanding that feelings of isolation and depression will pass, examining the situation leading to the feelings)

Level IV Grade : 9-12

Benchmark 2: Knows strategies for coping with and overcoming feelings of rejection, social isolation, and other forms of stress

McREL: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks), 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014.

Thinking and Reasoning Standards

Standard 5: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

Level III Grade : 6-8

Benchmark 2: Selects the most appropriate strategy or alternative for solving a problem

Benchmark 3: Examines different alternatives for resolving local problems and compares the possible consequences of each alternative

Level IV Grade : 9-12

Benchmark 6: Represents a problem accurately in terms of resources, constraints and objectives

Benchmark 10: Evaluates the feasibility of various solutions to problems; recommends and defends a solution

McREL: Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education (Copyright 2000 McREL) is published online by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) (http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks), 2550 S. Parker Road, Suite 500, Aurora, CO 80014.

Discussion Questions

1. According to The First Patient, why does the president of the United States have one of the most demanding jobs in the world? What physical and mental effects can this job have on a president?

2. What unique measures are in place to protect the president's health? What is the role of the White House physician? What responsibilities are associated with this position? What is the worst scenario that the president's physician could encounter? What types of medical facilities are present at the White House and aboard Air Force One?

Don't Miss

3. How can an ailing president potentially impact world diplomacy, public policy and the economy? Give an example. What measures have some ailing presidents taken to minimize these effects?

4. According to the program, what major health problems did Ronald Reagan, Richard M. Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush face while in office? To what extent did each president's health problem(s) affect his ability to govern?

5. What is the 25th Amendment? In what year was it ratified? When has it been invoked? Why wasn't the 25th Amendment invoked after President Reagan was shot? Do you agree with this decision? Why or why not?

6. What criteria do you think should be used to determine whether a president is too "disabled" to serve? Who do you think should be responsible for making this determination?

7. Do you think the president should be required to take annual physical and psychological exams? State your rationale.

8. Would the state of a presidential candidate's health ever influence your decision whether or not to vote for the individual? Why or why not? If so, give a hypothetical example. In your opinion, during a presidential campaign, should candidates be required to disclose any chronic physical and emotional health problems that they might have? Why or why not?

Suggested Activities

1. Presidential Succession

"What is the extent of the term "disability" & who is to be the judge of it?" -- John Dickinson, constitutional framer, speaking to the issue of presidential disability from the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787

Point out to students that the U.S. Constitution and federal law determine the succession of the U.S. presidency if the president becomes disabled or dies while in office. Inform students that it took more than 150 years for the process of presidential succession to be established.

Refer students to online and library resources to learn about the history and process of U.S. presidential succession, including the Presidential Succession Acts of 1886 and 1947, the 25h Amendment and the line of succession. Have students share their findings in class discussion and share their views on the presidential succession process. Then, as a wrap-up, inform students that "the night of the State of the Union speech is the one night all individuals in the line of succession to the presidency are present together in one place. And as a result, one Cabinet Member is asked to stay safely away from the Capitol that evening." (Source: C-SPAN.org - http://www.c-span.org/questions/weekly88.asp) Ask students: Why do you think this policy is in place? Do you think this policy is necessary? If so, what method do you think should be used to determine which Cabinet member stays away during the State of the Union?

2. Coping with Stress

Point out to students that you don't have to be the president of the United States to experience stress. Everyone experiences stress; it's a normal part of everyday life. Stress is the reaction our bodies and minds have to everyday demands and threats. There are three different types of stress (acute, episodic acute and chronic), each with its own characteristics, symptoms, and treatment approaches. Contrary to popular belief, stress isn't always bad; depending on how it's perceived and managed, it can be helpful. Have student groups consult their texts and other resources to learn about the three different types of stress, different kinds of stressors and how the body responds to different types of stress. Ask students to identify the following:

  1. the three stages of the stress (alarm, resistance and fatigue);
  2. the reactions of the nervous system and the endocrine system;
  3. the role that cortisol and other stress hormones play in emergency situations;
  4. the positive effects of stress;
  5. what happens when people are under stress too often or for too long;
  6. the diseases and disorders that can be directly related to harmful stress, including depression;
  7. ways to relieve harmful stress and the physiology behind these methods.

After groups share their findings, ask: Why do you think some people handle stress better than others? What should people do if they're having difficulty managing their stress? Following the discussion, have each group create a roleplay depicting a student dealing with a stressful situation at home, school, work or with friends. Following each group's presentation, have group members ask the audience to strategize a solution to resolve the stressful situation. Have each group demonstrate stress management techniques by acting out the proposed solution.

Keywords

White House, physician, president, mental health, physical health, Dr. Richard Tubb, Dr. Connie Mariano, Ronald Reagan, Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush, James A. Garfield, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, anesthesia, 25th Amendment, succession, stress

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