Commissioner of Health to be keynote speaker at UR School of Medicine and Dentistry commencement

May 21, 2001

Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., New York State Commissioner of Health and former United States Surgeon General, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry commencement ceremony this weekend.

The event will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27, at the Eastman Theatre. In addition to delivering her address, titled "The Art of Medicine: Challenges and Controversies," Novello will accept an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the school.

A graduate of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, Novello did postgraduate work at the University of Michigan Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital. She earned her master's and doctorate degrees in public health at Johns Hopkins University.

Novello was in private practice in Springfield, Va., from 1976-78. In 1978, she became project officer for the National Institutes of Health's Artificial Kidney Chronic Uremia Program at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases in 1978, and was named staff physician for the NIH Chronic Renal Disease Program in 1979. Between 1979 and 1990, Novello served the NIH as an executive secretary in the Division of Research Grants, and as deputy director and then director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Novello served under President George Bush as United States Surgeon General from 1990-93. She was the first Hispanic and the first woman to serve in that position. As surgeon general, Novello was among the first to recognize the need to focus on women with AIDS and on neonatal transmission of HIV. She found new opportunities for Hispanic/Latino Americans to participate in health issues, convening national and regional meetings to discuss community health needs. She also raised national awareness in the medical profession about the domestic violence and worked to increase awareness about underage drinking and alcohol abuse.

From 1993-96, she worked as special representative for Health and Nutrition for the United Nations Children's Fund, and in 1996 began a three-year visiting professorship and became special director for community health policy at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Novello has served as commissioner of the New York State Department of Health under Gov. George Pataki since 1999.

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