Hispanic Heritage Month:
October 3, 2013
Occupation: Former U.S. Surgeon General
Birth: Aug. 23, 1944
Birthplace: Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Antonia Novello was the first woman U.S. surgeon general and also the first Hispanic to hold the position. She was appointed in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.
After earning her doctor of medicine degree from the University of Puerto Rico at San Juan in 1970, she went on to an internship in pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical Center, followed by fellowships in pediatric nephrology there and at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., according to Achievement.org.
During her appointment as surgeon general, Dr. Novello focused her attention on the health of women, children and minorities, as well as on underage drinking, smoking and AIDS. She also worked to discourage illegal tobacco use by young people, and notably went after the use of cartoon characters such as Joe Camel, according to her bio on SurgeonGeneral.gov.
Dr. Novello is also credited with leading the emergence of a National Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative, and remained surgeon general through the end of June 1993.
Active in alerting the nation about the rising cases of AIDS among women and adolescents, Dr. Novello in 1993 wrote a report about the disease, counseling against promiscuity and drug use, but including instructions on using condoms and cleaning intravenous needles, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
She was awarded the Legion of Merit by Gen. Colin Powell for expediting FDA approval of vaccines for military personnel during the Gulf War.
Upon stepping down as surgeon general, Dr. Novello served UNICEF as special representative for health and nutrition, and served from 1999-2006 as commissioner of Health for the State of New York, according to Achievement.org. Since 2008, Dr. Novello has been vice president for Womens and Childrens Health and Policy Affairs at Disney Children's Hospital at Florida Hospital in Orlando.