and public health official
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Surgeon
General, Antonia Novello has been an aggressive advocate for
women, children, and minorities throughout her medical and
public health career.
mother always said, ‘Education is the door of opportunity.'
And believe me, Mami pushed. For me, competitiveness has always
been something that comes from inside, and I think it came
from my mother.”
father died when she was 8, leaving her mother, a schoolteacher,
to raise Novello and her brother. Novello suffered from a chronic
illness of the colon until she was 18, when it was finally
corrected surgically. The inconsistent medical advice and care
she received prompted her to help other sick children. Novello
completed medical school in Puerto Rico and trained as a pediatrician
in Michigan. In 1986, she became deputy director of the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development where she took
a special interest in children with AIDS.