The first woman and the first Latina to become the Surgeon General of the United States (1990-1993), was named Antonia Novello. Born and raised in Puerto Rico and a former pediatrician Antonia focused on the health of children and minorities.
Antonia Novello was born on August 23, 1944 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, a town 32 miles southeast of San Juan. Novello came from a poor family. Her parents divorced, and her father later died while she was about 5 yrs old. Novello was primarily raised by her mother Ana Delia Coello, who was a schoolteacher and later a junior high school and high school principal, who always stressed the importance of education to her children.
At birth Novello was diagnosed with congenital megacolon, an abnormality of the large intestine (jrank.org/).Most of her childhood summers where spent admitted in the hospital. It was recommended at age 8 that she undergo surgery, but due to financial circumstances it was postponed. "The university hospital was in the north, I was 32 miles away, my mother could only take me on Saturday, so the surgery was never done," Novello explained in an interview with Saturday Evening Post writer Carol Krucoff. "I do believe some people fall through the cracks," Novello continued. "I was one of those. I thought, when I grow up, no other person is going to wait 18 years for surgery." When she was 18 years old she finally had surgery to correct her medical condition. However, the initial surgery was not successful and Novello continued to suffer from complications for two more years. When she was 20 years old Novello traveled to the renowned Mayo Clinic for another operation that finally corrected the problem. Facing a medical condition at a young age inspired Novello to achieve her goal of one day becoming a doctor to help other sick children.
Despite her illness Novello graduated from High School at the age of 15. She received a Bachelor of...