Surgeon General: Antonia Novello

By Steve Rochun

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Tarrant County College-Trinity River recently hosted Surgeon General Dr. Antonia Novello, the 14th Surgeon General of the United States.
Dr. Novello received a master’s degree in public health from the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1982, and a doctorate of public health in May 2000. She holds countless awards, including the Legion Merit and the Don Quijote Lifetime Achievement awards.
On March 9, 1990, Dr. Novello was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as the 14th Surgeon General of the United States, becoming the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as surgeon general.
Dr. Novello’s October 2, 2019 visit to Fort Worth was greeted by a crowd of business professionals and students as she spoke on the topic of “Advice for the Contemporary Woman.”
In her direct and unapologetic delivery, Dr. Novello shared several principles on how to encourage and empower women of all ages, to not be afraid of having a career, to not be intimidated by men in professional positions, and to be honest to themselves and take stock in their own agenda and to never suppress their voice.
Dr. Novello is a strong advocate that the income inequality among genders must change in order to benefit women and become equal to the salary of men in the workforce. She encourages women to continue to further their education and allow their merits to get them the pay they deserve.
Asked if she planned her career path to become surgeon general, she replied, “I never planned and never saw it coming. It’s about positioning and preparing yourself to be more and to do more, as well as being in the right place and connected to the right people.”

One area that she singled out as hindering the professional and financial growth of women is the lack of a professional support system. She believes that this may be directly related to not having a mentor or to a lack of training.
Dr. Novello stressed the importance of having a plan in life. “If you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re already there.”
Dr. Novello often interjected humor as she inspired the audience, saying that men can do the job, but because women know how to multi-task, women do the job right and do it better.
She ended her visit with these parting words, “Believe in yourself and never make yourself small so that others can be big.”


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