Anto­nia Coel­lo Nov­el­lo (born August 23, 1944) is a Puer­to Rican physi­cian and pub­lic health admin­is­tra­tor. She was a vice admi­ral in the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice Com­mis­sioned Corps and served as four­teenth Sur­geon Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States from 1990 to 1993. Nov­el­lo is the first woman and first His­pan­ic to serve as Sur­geon General.

Nov­el­lo served Com­mis­sion­er of Health for the State of New York from 1999 to 2006. Nov­el­lo was charged in a 20 count indict­ment on May 12, 2009 in New York with theft of gov­ern­ment ser­vices, defraud­ing the gov­ern­ment and fil­ing a false instru­ment. On June 26, 2009, in a plea deal with pros­e­cu­tors, she plead­ed guilty to one charge of fil­ing a false doc­u­ment involv­ing a worker’s duties.

Nov­el­lo was born in Fajar­do, Puer­to Rico. She was born with an abnor­mal­i­ty of the colon that posed a chal­lenge through­out her child­hood and ado­les­cence. She was not treat­ed until age 18, when she received an oper­a­tion that result­ed in com­pli­ca­tions which would trou­ble Nov­el­lo for two more years. The prob­lems were resolved after she received treat­ment at the Mayo Clin­ic at age 20.

Nov­el­lo grad­u­at­ed from high school at age 15, received her Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence degree from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Puer­to Rico at Río Piedras in 1965, and earned her Doc­tor in Med­i­cine (MD) Degree from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Puer­to Rico School of Med­i­cine at San Juan in 1970. She then com­plet­ed her intern­ship and res­i­den­cy in nephrol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Med­ical Cen­ter in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Nov­el­lo remained at Michi­gan from 1973 to 1974[citation need­ed] on a fel­low­ship in the Depart­ment of Inter­nal Med­i­cine, and spent the fol­low­ing year on a fel­low­ship in the Depart­ment of Pedi­atrics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine. From 1976 to 1978, she was in pri­vate prac­tice in pedi­atrics in Spring­field, Virginia.

In 1979, Nov­el­lo joined the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice and received a com­mis­sion in the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice Com­mis­sioned Corps (PHSCC). Her first assign­ment was as a project offi­cer at the Nation­al Insti­tute of Arthri­tis, Metab­o­lism and Diges­tive Dis­eases of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). From 1976, she also held a clin­i­cal appoint­ment in pedi­atrics at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal. Dur­ing her years at NIH, Nov­el­lo worked on an MPH. degree from the Johns Hop­kins School of Hygiene and Pub­lic Health, receiv­ing the degree in 1982.

Nov­el­lo held var­i­ous posi­tions at NIH before being appoint­ed to Assis­tant Sur­geon Gen­er­al grade in the PHSCC and assign­ment as the Deputy Direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Child Health and Human Devel­op­ment (NICHD) in 1986. She also served as Coör­di­na­tor for AIDS Research for NICHD from Sep­tem­ber 1987.[citation need­ed] In this role, she devel­oped a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in pedi­atric AIDS, which caught the atten­tion of the White House.

Nov­el­lo made major con­tri­bu­tions to the draft­ing and enact­ment of the Organ Trans­plan­ta­tion Pro­cure­ment Act of 1984 while assigned to the Unit­ed States Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Labor and Human Resources, work­ing with the staff of com­mit­tee chair­man Orrin Hatch.

Sur­geon General

Nov­el­lo was appoint­ed Sur­geon Gen­er­al by Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush, begin­ning her tenure on March 9, 1990 and was appoint­ed to the tem­po­rary rank of vice admi­ral in the reg­u­lar corps while the Sur­geon Gen­er­al. She was the first woman and the first His­pan­ic to hold the position.

Dur­ing her tenure as Sur­geon Gen­er­al, Nov­el­lo focused her atten­tion on the health of women, chil­dren and minori­ties, as well as on under­age drink­ing, smok­ing, and AIDS. She played an impor­tant role in launch­ing the Healthy Chil­dren Ready to Learn Ini­tia­tive. She was active­ly involved in work­ing with oth­er orga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote immu­niza­tion of chil­dren and child­hood injury pre­ven­tion efforts. She spoke out often and force­ful­ly about ille­gal under­age drink­ing, and called upon the Unit­ed States Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices Inspec­tor Gen­er­al to issue a series of eight reports on the subject.

Nov­el­lo also worked to dis­cour­age ille­gal tobac­co use by young peo­ple, and repeat­ed­ly crit­i­cized the tobac­co indus­try for appeal­ing to the youth mar­ket through the use of car­toon char­ac­ters such as Joe Camel. A work­shop that she con­vened led to the emer­gence of a Nation­al Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative.

Nov­el­lo was con­tro­ver­sial among abor­tion rights advo­cates due to her sup­port of a pol­i­cy pro­hibit­ing fam­i­ly plan­ning pro­gram work­ers who received fed­er­al financ­ing from dis­cussing abor­tion with their patients.

Nov­el­lo left the post of Sur­geon Gen­er­al on June 30, 1993, with the admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton prais­ing her for her “vig­or and talent.”

Lat­er years

After leav­ing the posi­tion of Sur­geon Gen­er­al, Nov­el­lo remained in the reg­u­lar corps of the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice. She was assigned the Unit­ed Nations Chil­dren’s Fund (UNICEF) Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Health and Nutri­tion from 1993 to 1996 revert­ing back to her per­ma­nent two-star rank of rear admi­ral. In 1996, she became Vis­it­ing Pro­fes­sor of Health Pol­i­cy and Man­age­ment at the Johns Hop­kins School of Hygiene and Pub­lic Health. She retired from the Pub­lic Health Ser­vice and the PHSCC short­ly after with the grade of vice admiral.

In 1999, Gov­er­nor of New York George Pata­ki appoint­ed Nov­el­lo as the Com­mis­sion­er of Health for the State of New York. She served until 2006. Since 2008, Nov­el­lo has been vice pres­i­dent of Women and Chil­dren Health and Pol­i­cy Affairs at Dis­ney Children’s Hos­pi­tal at Flori­da Hos­pi­tal in Orlan­do, Florida.

Per­son­al life

Nov­el­lo was mar­ried to for­mer US Navy flight sur­geon and psy­chi­a­trist, Joseph R. Novello.[6] She was the sis­ter-in-law of Sat­ur­day Night Live alum­nus Don Nov­el­lo, cre­ator of the char­ac­ter per­sona Father Gui­do Sarducci.

Felony Con­vic­tion

A Jan­u­ary 2009 report by the New York Inspec­tor Gen­er­al’s office claimed that dur­ing her sev­en-year tenure as New York State Health Com­mis­sion­er, Nov­el­lo rou­tine­ly abused her author­i­ty over health depart­ment staff, “turn[ing] her staff at the Health Depart­ment into her per­son­al chauf­feurs, porters and shop­ping assis­tants dur­ing her sev­en-year tenure.”

The Inspec­tor Gen­er­al’s office referred a crim­i­nal case against her to Albany Coun­ty dis­trict attor­ney David Soares. On May 12, 2009 a felony indict­ment was unsealed charg­ing one count of defraud­ing the gov­ern­ment, three counts of fil­ing a false instru­ment and six­teen counts of theft of gov­ern­ment ser­vices. Upon arraign­ment by Judge Stephen Her­rick, rep­re­sent­ed by attor­ney E. Stew­art Jones, she at first plead­ed “Not Guilty” to all alle­ga­tions, but even­tu­al­ly plead­ed guilty to one felony count of fil­ing a false instru­ment in exchange for a light sen­tence and drop­ping the oth­er charges. Her guilty plea was accept­ed by the court on August 13, 2009.