She Keeps The Defense Health Agency Shipshape

Vice Admiral Raquel Bono (Source:

Vice Admiral Raquel Bono (Source:

After her nomination by President Barack Obama in 2015, U.S. Navy Admiral and surgeon Raquel Bono, age 59, was confirmed before the year ended for promotion from Rear Admiral in charge of the National Capital Region Medical Directorate (NCRMD) to Vice Admiral and director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA). 

For the next three years, all branches of the military will benefit from knowledge she acquired through nearly 33 years of active duty as both a clinician and medical administrator.

In her previous role at NCRMD, Vice Admiral Bono ran Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in nearby Northern Virginia. 

Part of what gives life meaning is the service you provide to others.

“As director of the NCR, I oversaw a small portion of what I’m overseeing now,” she describes her expanded role. “Our military and government have such an important role in shaping the healthcare for not only our military families, but for our larger society by advancing healthcare for the rest of the public.  I realize the scope of this responsibility as I oversee the military mission across the United States.”

The former Raquel Cruz is married to Art Dwight, who retired after a career in the Marines and Army.  They raised three daughters ages, 18 to 23. 

A True Navy Family Across Generations

Joining “the service” automatically implies the armed forces.  The otherwise broad term “service” is synonymous with devotion, sacrifice and adventure in the defense of the nation and its interests.

Vice Admiral Bono comes from a family dedicated to the service dating back to her grandfather, Anatolio Cruz, an obstetrician, who was commissioned into Army infantry in the Philippines during World War II.  She says, “He served with distinction in the front line infantry and saw patients outside of his military work.” 

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Vice Admiral Bono moved at six months old with her family to Minnesota, where her father, Anatolio Cruz. Jr., trained in surgery at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. At age 7, her family followed her father back overseas to work for University of Philippines Medical School. 

The family soon returned Stateside by way of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for a transplant surgery fellowship, which led to a surgical position for her father at University of Texas Health Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Cruz family planted roots in the Lone Star State. 

The patrician Dr. Cruz maintained the family military tradition by serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve. The father’s example inspired daughter Raquel to enter the Navy with an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and medical degree at Texas Tech. His son, Anatolio Cruz III, went on to attend the Naval Academy and rise to the rank of Rear Admiral. 

Until her brother retired in 2013, Vice Admiral Raquel Bono was for a time half of the Navy’s only brother and sister admiral pair.

Vice Admiral Bono with Defense Health Agency staff promoting the upcoming Turkey Trot (Source: Military Health)

Vice Admiral Bono with Defense Health Agency staff promoting the upcoming Turkey Trot (Source: Military Health)

She elaborates on her family values for the benefit of young adults making their way in the world: “Service helps define who you are. The advice I give each person who’s considering what they want to do with their life is: Part of what gives life meaning is the service you provide to others.”

Besides service, “the other value is family,” she says, “not just your immediate family but family across the generations. These values resonate in my own children. They come from my Filipino heritage. Rely on that heritage and use it to move forward.”

From O.R. to Office

For most of her career Vice Admiral Bono could be found in operating rooms in all parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia and in the Iraqi combat zone during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 to 1991. For the last 12 years, the trained surgeon has worked mainly in healthcare administration.

“I miss the interactions with patients,” she admits while appreciating the impact her administrative decisions can have on the overall care of military patients. “As a clinician, I could make a difference one patient at a time. Now I can make a difference for a larger group of patients. I feel like I still do clinical work but on a larger scale instead of one-to-one.”

As she completes her fourth month as head of DHA, she says, “I love the diversity of the issues and the opportunity to interface with the military at different levels. I enjoy getting a better feel for potential changes that can be made in military health through legislative activity, change management and working directly with patients.”

Cutting a Path for Women and Filipinos

Vice Admiral Bono acknowledges her dual minority status as both a Filipina and woman. In 2015 the Navy launched an initiative to boost women from the current 17 percent to 25 percent, which will bring the military branch closer in parity with the 46 percent participation in the civilian workforce. “People realize a more inclusive workforce produces a more comprehensive product that can create a competitive advantage,” she observes.

Her advice once again invokes her family heritage. “All young Filipinos, including women, should believe they can do anything. All they need to do is make a decision. My father taught me that at a young age.”

There’s also a side of her Filipino heritage she has kept secret until this interview. “I enjoy cooking Filipino food,” she reveals. “Once colleagues find this out, they will be telling me to bring Filipino dishes to their potlucks.”

The dishes she contributes will be authentic and sensational. “I cook Filipino food like my mother,” she says of her mother, Rosalina Cruz. “That is, without measuring ingredients. It’s all about feel and taste.”

Without measurements for her ingredients, Vice Admiral Raquel Bono cannot share her recipe for chicken adobo, but she does offer her guidance especially to young adults embarking on their career journeys. “As a leader in the country who’s able to help others, it’s important for me to help others forge their way in the world.”

Send her your questions at

Anthony Maddela

Anthony Maddela

Anthony Maddela is a Southern California correspondent for Positively Filipino. He is volunteering with daughter Charlotte, Audubon Center at Debs Park and Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society to establish a Los Angeles Young Birders Club. 

More articles from Anthony Maddela