Vice President of Women and Children Health and Policy,
Novello made us proud when in 1990 she became the first woman and the first Hispanic to be appointed Surgeon General of the United States. A native of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Novello became interested in medicine at an early age, and by when she reached her teen years she had already decided to become a doctor in order to help sick children.
With an extensive academic and professional background that includes the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Michigan and Georgetown University, in addition to more than 20 years in the public service arena as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Novello is currently the vice president of Women and Children Health and Policy at the Florida Hospital in Orlando.
Novello can summarize the path towards such an impressive career with rather simple advice. “It is not easy, but nothing is impossible,” says Novello. “Determine what is it that you want, build your strategy and work at it.”
On the other hand, she warns future generation of Latinas about becoming doctors just for the prestige attached to it. “Medicine is a career for a lifetime”, she said, while, at the same time, understanding the urgency of having more Hispanic physicians. “If you don’t have cultural competence, you shouldn’t be treating minorities.”
Novello says that to become a doctor should not be the end career, and that Latinas should keep their options open and also consider other positions in which they can help the community, such as nurses and lab researchers.
Based on her own formula for success, Novello says that education is key, followed by support and perseverance. “You have to have someone who is your mentor and a really good friend who can laugh at it when you do things wrong,” says Novello. It is that simple..