Antonia C. Novello
Physician and public health official
Born: Fajardo, Puerto Rico

The 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.

“My 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.”

Novello's 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Antonia C. Novello, physician and public health official. Photograph by Luis Mallo, taken in the New York State Department of Health, New York , New York

Antonia C. Novello, physician and public health official. Photograph by Luis Mallo, taken in the New York State Department of Health, New York, New York

 

As U.S. Surgeon General, Novello made the health needs of women, children, and minorities a national priority. Today she heads the New York State Department of Health, one of the nation's largest public health agencies, and continues to advocate for the underprivileged and under-represented.

“We do a disservice to the community if we believe that whatever we get is better than nothing. We still have a way to go. I always say that echoes are not well heard. Our chances of survival cannot be good if we do not unite as one Latino voice.”

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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