Kuel Life the Collective Power of Women

All The President's Doctors – Well, At Least 3 Of Them

KuelWomen are everywhere. In the Women Who Inspire section we hope to bring you stories of rock stars who break barriers and shatter glass ceilings. This is the story of Dr. Connie Mariano a Filipino American Navy ‘brat’ who aggressively pursued excellence her entire life and conquered some impressive ‘firsts’:

  • the first military woman to become the White House Physician to the President
  • the first woman Director of the White House Medical Unit
  • the first Filipino American in US history to become a Navy Rear Admiral

Dr. Connie Mariano was born 1955 in Sangley Point, Philippines. She entered this world as a Navy ‘brat’ and spent most of her life moving frequently during her father’s Navy career – living in Hawaii, California, Taiwan and Washington, DC.
Driven to success, Dr. Mariano graduated Valedictorian from her high school in Imperial Beach, California. By 1981, she had her MD from the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, the nation’s military medical school and was commissioned as lieutenant in the United States Navy. She served in the Navy for 24 years and upon retiring had the distinct honor of being the first Filipino American in history to become a Navy Admiral.
In the midst of her years of active duty, she became the first military woman in American history to be appointed White House Physician. She was nominated by the Navy and selected by the White House for this honor in 1992. Dr. Mariano went on to serve nine years as the physician to George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

In her book, The White House Doctor, Mariano shares how difficult it was to get to that coveted position. The stereotypes about both, women and minorities, plagued her throughout her career. Even after she reached the position of Physician to the President, Mariano encountered moments where she was treated like the hired help. Determined and
focused, she doubled down on her commitment to her career. And, sadly, you can’t ‘Have it all.’ – especially if you’re a woman. In an excerpt in the book, she confesses that her devotion to her work (long hours, and dedication to the care of the Presidents and First Families) strained her own personal relationships. She shares an anecdote about a time when she raced to get President Clinton and his family Christmas gifts and all of sudden realized she had forgotten her husband and children.  Luckily, she had time to rectify the mistake. Sadly, her marriage still ended in divorce.

Executive Women and the Myth of Having It All, HBR article details that when it comes to career and fatherhood, high-achieving men don’t have to deal with difficult trade-offs:

“79% of the men surveyed reported wanting children—and 75% had them. The research showed that, generally speaking, the more successful the man, the more likely he will find a spouse and become a father. The opposite holds true for women, and the disparity is particularly striking among corporate ultra-achievers. In fact, 49% of these women are childless. But a mere 19% of their male colleagues are. These figures underscore the depth and scope of the persisting, painful inequities between the sexes.”

Dr. Mariano had a husband and children but paid a high price to pursue and achieve professional greatness. Her great sacrifices and persistence makes her a Woman Who Inspires by my standards.
Mariano now, happily remarried, lives in Scottsdale, AZ. In November 2005, she founded the Center for Executive Medicine. Dr. Mariano frequently appears on television and print media as an expert on the topics of care to VIPs, presidential disability, travel medicine, and optimizing quality of care. She is the author of the book, The White House Doctor: My Patients were Presidents, A Memoir, published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.