Antonia Novello
August 23, 1944

Antonia Coello was born in the small town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Antonia was born with a digestive problem that she had trouble with throughout her childhood and into her teen years. Antonia was hospitalized every summer for treatments for her disease.

Antonia's father died when she was a young child. Her mother was a teacher who later became a high school principal. Her mother stressed the importance of education from the time that Antonia was very young. Antonia must have listened to her mother, because she graduated from high school at the early age of 15. Antonia underwent surgery to correct her medical condition at the same time she was attending the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. The surgery was not completely successful so, when she was 20 she traveled to the United States for treatment at the Mayo clinic. Finally, Antonia's medical condition was cured! Antonia was determined to become a doctor so she could help children who suffered with illness. She knew what it felt like to feel sick and helpless.

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Antonia received her Bachelor of Science degree at Rio Piedras in 1965 and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Puerto Rico at San Juan in 1970. Antonia also married Joseph Novello in 1970. She went to Michigan to complete her internship and held several different fellowship positions in Washington, D.C. In 1979, she joined the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. She held several important positions while she worked there.

In 1990 President George Bush asked Antonia to be the Surgeon General of the United States. The surgeon general is considered the symbolic doctor of all Americans. A surgeon general does not see individual patients; instead she tries to teach the public about health concerns and how to be healthier. The surgeon general is also head of the United States Public Health Service. Antonia was a popular Surgeon General. She worked especially hard to address the health concerns of America's young people. Antonia was both the first woman and the first Latin American to be appointed to the post of Surgeon General.

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