NEW YORK City – Education and opportunity were the stepping stones that a Filipino woman used to make her mark in US history.
Dr. Connie Mariano is the first Filipina in US history to become a US Navy Rear Admiral in July 2000. Mariano is the highest ranking Filipina in the US military before she retired in 2001.
In 1992, she became the first woman and the first Filipino-American to be appointed White House physician to the president. Two years later, she became the first woman and first Pinay director to the White House Medical Unit.
“Anything is possible and I tell people if I can make it, you can make it because I didn’t speak English when I came to this country. I went to public school. I mean we didn’t have much money but we had opportunity and we had education,” said Mariano.
Born in Sangley Point Naval Base in Cavite, Philippines, that opportunity came when her family moved to the US when she was only 2 years old.
Her father, US Master Chief Angel Mariano, a navy man himself was her idol.
After breezing through high school and college with the highest honors, she joined the navy in 1977.
Her military background paved the way for her appointment as a White House doctor.
Mariano had the rare opportunity to work with 3 sitting presidents: President George H. W
Bush, President Bill Clinton and the younger president George W. Bush.
“I think a lot of people have the misconception that being a White House doctor is glamorous; that you sit in his limousine, you’re having dinner at his table. It’s not glamorous. You’re lugging around a 40-pound medical bag, you’re jumping in and out of cars and if he’s eating dinner you’re behind the stage, behind the curtains starving,” she said.
Mariano’s 8-year experience at the White House, taking care of First Patients is now summed up in her new book called “The White House Doctor”.
“Because you looked different, because you don’t fit the stereotype you stand out. And I know if you’re standing out that’s you’re chance to be outstanding, to take the opportunity to say listen I need to make a point here,” she said.