A memoir by a Navy physician whose patients were U.S. presidents and their families. Rising up the ranks from captain to
rear admiral during her service at the White House, Dr. Mariano was the first woman and first Filipino-American to become
the physician to a president and the director of the White House medical unit. She writes of her experiences with humor and
justifiable pride. This is no fly-on-the-wall tell-all, although she does comment on the "tall, slender, long-haired beauties"
who used to preen in front of President Clinton-they were called "POTUS bait" by the staff. While there were only minor alarms
and excitements during her nine years on the job-Bush I's last year and Clinton's two terms-she faced some challenging moments
and passed with flying colors through tough security-training exercises, countermanding her former boss's instructions when
he refused to relinquish his job and brushing off snide remarks that she benefited from a personal relationship with the president.
Though she was the "wrong sex, wrong color, even wrong height [and] didn't look like the stereotypical White House doctor,"
Mariano persevered, with special help from the "silent servant class at the White House . . . the people of every day attended
to the leader of the free world in his private quarters." As director of the medical unit, she instituted a number of changes
to improve the standard of care, including 24/7 on-site medical staffing and updated treatment protocols. She traveled with
more than 130 overseas presidential trips and many times worked grueling hours, making the painful choice to sacrifice her
own family time to serve two first families. Her retirement from the Navy in 2001 was simultaneously a time of celebration
and sadness. An interesting, behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the White House. Launch party in Washington, D.C. Agent:
Susan Crawford/Crawford Literary Agency
Sunday, June 27, 2010
THE WHITE HOUSE DOCTOR
By Connie Mariano
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's. 300 pp. $25.99
Connie Mariano has seen George H.W. Bush naked. It's very likely that she's seen Bill Clinton in the buff, too. Don't get the wrong idea,
though; it was strictly professional. Mariano, a Filipino-American Navy doctor, spent nine years serving as White House Physician
-- tending to the health of the U.S. commander in chief. Her memoir, "The White House Doctor," provides a peek into the tedium of treating the president's every cough, sniffle and golf-course-induced blister. And then
some. "The Secret Service calls it the 'kill zone,' " she writes. "To be in the presence of the president is to stand in the
kill zone and to sense the rarefied, exciting, and potentially deadly experience of being in close proximity to an assassin's
most prized prey."
Luckily, Mariano's tenure -- which encompassed the final year of George H.W. Bush's term and the entirety of the Clinton
administration -- was a relatively quiet one. Tense moments, when they arrived, were not explosive in a literal sense. Mariano
performed the Heimlich maneuver on a guest at the Bush family's holiday party, treated Hillary Clinton for a blood clot and
accidentally flooded the toilet aboard the king of Spain's yacht.
As far as juicy White House-insider commentary goes, Mariano's not much of a gossip. Non-presidential patients frequently
remain anonymous, and if she's privy to details regarding Clinton's late-'90s philandering, they are not included here. Mariano
is a self-made woman -- the first female White House physician, the first woman director of the White House Medical Unit and
the first Filipina to become a Navy rear admiral -- and "The White House Doctor" is mainly about her accomplishments as a
medical professional. In that spirit, Mariano keeps doctor-patient confidentiality intact.
-- Aaron Leitko