Correction to This Article
The Outlook review of Connie Mariano's book "The White House Doctor" incorrectly described Mariano as the first female White House physician. Janet Travell, who served Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, was the first female White House doctor.

Book review of Connie Mariano's memoir "The White House Doctor"

Sunday, June 27, 2010


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

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