Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What It's Like To Be A White House Doctor

Have you ever fantasized about what it would be like to be the doctor to the President of the United States? All the fancy dinners, the exciting overseas trips, and having inside gossip on the president and his staff? Well, a physician who was one has written a book about her experiences. Dr. Connie Mariano, physician to Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush, has written an account of her years working in the White House, "The White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents--A Memoir."  She tells a story of exhausting work schedules, frazzled nerves, and difficult noncompliant patients (presidents and their families).

Being a White House physician is not like having a normal doctor-patient relationship. Here, the patient outranks the doctor. The president may not follow her orders if it interferes with his tight schedule. Dr. Mariano recounts how she had to threaten Pres. Clinton with Mrs. Clinton's wrath if he didn't follow her doctor's orders to slow down when he had the flu. Mrs. Clinton also wouldn't follow orders when she developed phlebitis during an election year campaign and Dr. Mariano was forced to work around the malady instead of getting Mrs. Clinton to stay at bedrest.

Besides taking care of the president and his immediate family, she and her staff are available inside the White House for anybody who has a medical emergency. During state dinners it is the medical staff, who hover around the edges of the ceremonies, who may have to give a Heimlich maneuver for a choking foreign dignitary.They don't get to drink the champagne or partake of the finger food. Bummer.

Above all, the White House medical staff learned to stay away from the "kill zone". That's the immediate area around a president where somebody is most likely to get shot, either by the enemy or accidentally by the Secret Service. As Dr. Mariano says, "You can't treat the president if you are dead." I guess there is no glamor in presidential medicine either.

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