1 minute read

Antonia Novello: 1944—: Pediatrician

Became Nation's Leading Doctor

The Surgeon General of the United States is the nation's leading spokesperson on matters of public health and the head of the United States Public Health Service. The duties of this position include educating the public about health concerns, advocating disease prevention and health promotion, and providing scientifically based health policy analysis to the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. From 1981 to 1989 this position was held by Dr. C. Everett Koop who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Koop was an outspoken advocate of public health who created much controversy during his tenure since some of his views opposed those of the President. When Novello first took over for Koop, she was constantly asked, "How do you feel in Dr. Koop's shoes?" With her characteristic sense of humor, Novello told the Saturday Evening Post that she was asked that question so often that she was " going to have to learn a new specialty in podiatry."

On October 17, 1989 President George Bush nominated Novello for the position of Surgeon General. One of the key factors in his decision was the fact that Novello was publicly opposed to abortion, which was consistent with the President's views. Unlike the controversial Dr. Koop, Novello's Congressional confirmation hearings went smoothly. Antonia Novello became the fourteenth United States Surgeon General and the first woman and first Hispanic to ever hold the position. While Novello was committed to addressing the health issues of both women and Hispanics, she understood that her new role encompassed more than those particular social groups. As the Medical World News reported, at Novello's Senate confirmation hearings she stated, "I do not come before you as the surgeon general for Hispanics, or the surgeon general for women, or the surgeon general for children," but for "every citizen, regardless of race, age, sex, creed, circumstance, or political belief." Novello was sworn into her position on March 9, 1990. During the swearing-in ceremony, she announced that, "The American dream is well and alive today the West Side Story comes to the West Wing."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerAntonia Novello: 1944—: Pediatrician Biography - Childhood Illness Led To Medical Career, Became Nation's Leading Doctor, Fought For America's Health