Born in the Philippines, Connie Mariano moved to the United States at just two years old. Her father was a U.S. Navy Steward, which he describes as being a glorified house boy. He served Admirals by helping with the cooking, cleaning and even preparing their uniforms. Connie grew up watching his work ethic and learned to not take one opportunity for granted.
After she joined the U.S. Navy in 1977, she earned a medical degree and then served as a doctor on the USS Prairie as well as a Naval Hospital in San Diego. It was there that she was nominated for a promotion she never expected. “Not many people can say they've cared for the leader of the free world. That must have been a thrill for you,” I asked. “It was one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences of all,” shared Dr. Connie, as she's most commonly referred to these days. When asked why she wanted the job of White House Physician to the President, Dr. Connie said, “It's payback time.” Payback to a country that offered her family safety, work and even a medical school scholarship, she added. "If can repay my debt by serving the Commander-in-Chief, that's what I wanted to do.”
Over nine years, Dr. Connie served three sitting U.S. Presidents in the White House –Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “It was something I really believe I was called to do." Dr. Connie was also the first military woman named Director of the White House Medical Unit, where she required care be available to the president 24/7, which surprisingly wasn't mandated before. While on the road, she carried ample medication, a defibrillator and even a supply of the president's blood type.
"Your goal is to keep him alive and healthy and there are always threats external such as assassination attempts." Though she worked steps from the Oval Office, she kept politics out. “Coming to the White House, you realize your job is not political, your job is the doctor. Not the spin doctor. You're there to take care of the patient." Take, for example, when President Clinton pulled his quadriceps tendon. Under Dr. Connie's supervision, he opted for surgery with only local anesthetic - to avoid transferring power to the Vice President. “I was in the O.R. with him. They were playing country western music and he was just chatting,” she laughed. The mother of two served nine years in the White House and towards the end of her Navy career made history again as the first Filipino-American to be promoted to Rear Admiral. Her parents watched proudly, especially her father. "He had gone from putting shoulder boards on other Admirals to his daughter's. Only in America can that happen."
Since retiring from the U.S. Navy, she's opened a private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. With more than 30 years of medical experience, she often appears as a medical expert on TV news programs as well and she also wrote a memoir. She also speaks about the power of prayer and believing in yourself and your purpose. Why? According to Dr. Connie, there was nothing “lucky” about becoming the White House Doctor. “Luck is random. I'm not lucky. I'm blessed because a blessing is touched by the hand of God and if you're blessed you have a responsibility to do something with your blessings."
Dr. Connie was the Keynote Speaker at the Nevada Women's Fund “Salute the Women of Achievement” luncheon today, where 58 local women were honored for their professional, personal and community achievements. To learn more about the Nevada Women's Fund, log onto http://nevadawomensfund.org/. To order Dr. Connie Mariano's book called “The White House Doctor - My Patients Were Presidents: A Memoir” click on http://www.whitehousedoctor.com/