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Antonia Novello
Antonia Novello
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Antonia Novello Biography

Former Surgeon General of the United States

Antonia Novello Date of birth: August 23, 1944

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  Antonia Novello

Antonia Novello Biography Photo
The future Surgeon General of the United States was born Antonia Coello in the small town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. From birth, the young girl suffered from an abnormality of the colon, which cast a shadow over her entire childhood and adolescence. Her father died when she was only eight and, although surgery might have corrected her condition at that age, she had to wait another ten years to receive effective treatment.

Antonia's mother, a school teacher and later high school principal, stressed the importance of education from an early age. Antonia was precocious, and graduated from high school at age 15. While attending the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, she finally underwent surgery to correct her medical condition. Complications from this operation were to trouble her for the next two years. At age 20, she traveled to the continental United States for treatment at the famous Mayo clinic, where she received an operation that resolved the last of these complications.

Antonia received her Bachelor of Science degree at Rio Piedras in 1965, and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the Univeristy of Puerto Rico at San Juan in 1970. That same year, she married Joseph R. Novello. After completing an internship in pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical Center, she held fellowships in pediatric nephrology there and at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC.

Antonia Novello Biography Photo
In 1979, she joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Over the next twelve years, she rose from project officer in the Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases to become Deputy Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. At NIH, her special interest in pediatric AIDS caught the attention of the White House.

In 1990, President George Bush appointed Antonia Novello to be Surgeon General of the United States. She was both the first woman and the first Latin American to be appointed to this post. Although she never shrank from controversy, Dr. Novello was an unusually popular Surgeon General, winning special praise for her campaigns to address the health problems of America's young people, whom she called "a generation at risk."

After leaving office in 1993, Dr. Novello served UNICEF, the United Nations' children's health organization, as Special Representative for Health and Nutrition. In this capacity, she traveled the world from Peru to Nepal. Her historic career of service to public health continues. From 1999 to 2006, she served as Commissioner of Health for the State of New York. She is now the Vice President for Women's and Children's Health and Policy Affairs at Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital in Orlando.

This page last revised on Jan 27, 2009 09:40 PST