Antonia Coello Novello Biography

Antonia Coello Novello

physician and former U.S. surgeon general
Born: 8/23/1944
Birthplace: Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Novello served as surgeon general under President George H. W. Bush from 1990 to 1993. She focused on publicizing the dangers of smoking and teenage drinking, expanding AIDS education, and improving health care for women, minorities, and children.

Novello was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico with a chronic colon condition that caused her severe pain until it was corrected surgically when she was 18 years old. The experience inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. She earned a BS (1965) and an MD from the University of Puerto Rico (1970). Novello and her husband, Joseph Novello, a U.S. Army flight surgeon, moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. She interned, did her residency, and completed a fellowship at the University of Michigan Medical Center, specializing in pediatric nephrology.

The couple then headed to Washington DC, where Novello fellowed at Georgetown University Hospital from 1974 to 1975. She took a position with the National Institutes of Health in 1978, eventually becoming deputy director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She received a master's degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1982.

In 1993, she left her post as surgeon general and went to work for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).