Eleanor Concepcion “Connie” Mariano was born on a naval base in the Philippines, where her father was a steward in the Navy. The family moved every two to three years following her father’s assignments, and she spent her childhood in Hawaii, Washington D.C., Taiwan and California. Growing up, Mariano considered being a teacher, a nun and a secretary. It was not until a physician spoke to her junior high school class on career day when she decided on her final career choice: a physician.
Mariano graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. At the University of California, San Diego, she majored in biology and graduated in 1977. Mariano then joined the Navy to become a physician and attended medical school at the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. She graduated in 1981 and commissioned as a lieutenant. She did her internship at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
Her first assignment was on USS Prairie. After two years, she returned to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego to complete her residency in internal medicine. She was then assigned to run the specialty clinic and urgent care facility at the Naval Branch Health Clinic in Port Hueneme, California. After several years, she returned to San Diego to become head of internal medicine at the Naval Medical Center. A year into this assignment, she started to think about her future as her ten years of service and completion of her commitment to the Navy were nearing.
Her then-husband worked as a lawyer and suggested she think about her potential retirement at his firm’s upcoming retreat in Palm Springs, California, and she agreed. The partners of his firm were primarily male, and she noticed how relaxed their wives seemed.
Back at work the following Monday, she requested the paperwork to begin the process of giving her notice. Later that same day, she received a call from her commanding officer. He had been asked to nominate six physicians to be considered to work in the White House, and he wanted to put her on the list. She went to the interview and got the job. The position was a two-year assignment, but she stayed for nine years.
She worked under President George H. W. Bush and then President Bill Clinton. During that time, she went on 130 overseas trips. In 1999, Clinton nominated Mariano for a promotion to rear admiral. The next year, she became the Navy’s first rear admiral of Filipino descent. While President George W. Bush wanted her to stay, she felt it was time to retire, so she stayed six months to train her successor. She retired from the Navy in 2001. She then took a position with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and after four years, she opened her own practice in Scottsdale.
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