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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SBU chapter.

As a Public Health major, and someone who is extremely passionate about the field of healthcare, I take to many of the greats of my field with a large amount of awe and inspiration. This month is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which gives me the opportunity to celebrate not only an amazing culture, but some of my icons within it, Antonia Novello being one of them.

In 1990, Antonia was the first woman AND the first Hispanic to ever become the Surgeon General of the United States, one of the most prestigious roles in healthcare. This was a groundbreaking achievement, which radiated such a powerful message, especially in a time such as the 90s: that anyone could do anything.

With a feat as large as Surgeon General, I have often found that her other remarkable accomplishments are often dismissed, but she has many of them. Here are a few major ones:

1. Congenital megacolon survivor

At a young age, Novello was diagnosed with congenital megacolon, a condition that affects your large intestine and is incredibly painful. In order to live a comfortable life and prevent huge health risks, one is projected to have life-saving surgery for this condition at a young age. This age projection for Antonia was 8, but she did not end up getting treatment until ages 18 and 20.

This difficulty to access healthcare forced her to live all of her young years in tremendous amounts of pain. She is truly a warrior and survivor for this. The most remarkable part of this is the fact that she actually used the circumstance as inspiration to get into the field of healthcare and help other youth that may have experienced things of a similar nature.

2. Intern of the year achievement

Training more specifically in medicine under the area of nephrology (kidneys), Novello got her official training at the University of Michigan. While doing this, she was actually the first ever woman to be named “Intern of the Year”, something that meant a lot in her field and place of education. Go girl!

3. Her years as surgeon general

Yes, it is recognized that she was Surgeon General, and an extremely tradition-breaking one, but sometimes historical recollections fail to even mention what Novello actually accomplished during her years of work!

She spoke out on numerous vital issues of the time, such as the underage use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, AIDS, vaccinations for children, and health disparity. Ultimately, she majorly improved healthcare for other Hispanics and many minorities.

4. Work for the national INSTITUTE of healthcare

Prior to her prestigious position of SG, Novello was working at one of the most prestigious institutes in the field of Health! This woman attracted prestige.

Working for the National Institute of Healthcare, she drafted national legislation in regards to organ transplantation and helped to improve conditions under which the transplantation process took place.

5. A continued life of public health

In 1993, Novello stepped down from the position of Surgeon General, but she was nowhere close to done serving our country like a Public Health SUPERHERO.

She directed her attention to matters affecting the healthcare of youth and women around the world. She worked in many powerful positions and spread a positive impact to as many places as she could. She vowed at such a young age to make the field of Pubic Health her life’s work, and that is truly what she did. A tireless and consistent promoter and protector of health for all, Novello did not retire until 2014, when she was 70 years old!!!

6. National Women’s hall of fame

If I could be anywhere ever, it would be standing in a room with all of the inductees of the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The honor of being inducted is truly enough to make you one of my idols for the entirety of my life, and of course my queen Novello is in there! She was inducted in 1994 and guarantees a legacy that will not be forgotten, especially by women.


Overall, Antonia Novello made an incredible name for herself and while doing so boosted the entirety of the Hispanic community as well as other minority groups. She is truly an inspirational force, and I will admire her for the rest of my life, especially when I begin my work in Public Health.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, take a minute to admire Antonia Novello, as well as all the other Hispanic figures that paved the way and continue to do so.

“When you succeed, don’t forget the responsibility of making someone else succeed with you.”

– Antonia Novello
Audney Burnside is a new writer for the St. Bonaventure Her Campus chapter. She publishes articles weekly, spanning the topics of music, lifestyle and popular culture. She hopes to further the amazing creativity that her chapter of Her Campus has to share with the world. Audney is currently a freshman at St. Bonaventure University, studying Public Health in the 3+2 Occupational Therapy Master's program. A new college student, as well as a new member of Her Campus, Audney brings her history of involvement in many programs at her high school, Le Roy Jr/Sr High School. She was the project manager of her chapter of the National Honor society, had the opportunity to write a couple of pieces for the local paper, served her community habitually as a member of her towns Rotary InterACT, and led a team in Scholastic Bowl. As well as Her Campus, Audney is a member of SBU’s honors program, SBU for Equality, and Bona Buddies. Apart from academics, Audney’s life revolves around the music she loves, outdoorsy adventures, and her best friends. Audney is a devoted cat mom and enthusiastic nature explorer, who loves kayaking with her family, takes way too much pride in her recent Taylor Swift concert attendance, and will bring up The Catcher in the Rye at any moment possible.