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The Office of Minority Health Celebrates
Hispanic Heritage Month for 2004

Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries-Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico achieved independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time of celebration for all Americans. Latinos have made remarkable contributions to the life of our country, and have added greatly to our legacy of faith, freedom, family and culture.

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2004 Hispanic Heritage Poster from DiversityStore.com

Notable Hispanic Americans in Health Care

Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona was sworn in as the 17th Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service on August 5, 2002.

Born and raised in New York City, Dr. Carmona dropped out of high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967. While enlisted he received his Army General Equivalency Diploma, joined the Army's Special Forces, ultimately becoming a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, and began his career in medicine.

After leaving active duty, Dr. Carmona attended Bronx Community College, of the City University of New York, where he earned his associate of arts degree. He later attended and graduated from the University of California, San Francisco, with a bachelor of science degree (1977) and medical degree (1979). At the University of California Medical School, Dr. Carmona was awarded the prestigious gold headed cane as the top graduate. He has also earned a masters of public health from the University of Arizona (1998).

Dr. Carmona has worked in various positions in the medical field including paramedic, registered nurse and physician. Dr. Carmona completed a surgical residency at the University of California, San Francisco, and a National Institutes of Health-sponsored fellowship in trauma, burns and critical care. Dr. Carmona is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and is also certified in correctional health care and in quality assurance.

Prior to being named Surgeon General, Dr. Carmona was the chairman of the State of Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System, a professor of surgery, public health and family and community medicine at the University of Arizona, and the Pima County Sheriff's Department surgeon and deputy sheriff.

Dr. Carmona has also held progressive positions of responsibility as chief medical officer, hospital chief executive officer, public health officer, and finally chief executive officer of the Pima county health care system. He has also served as a medical director of police and fire departments and is a fully-qualified peace officer with expertise in special operations and emergency preparedness, including weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Carmona has published extensively and received numerous awards, decorations, and local and national recognition for his achievements. A strong supporter of community service, he has served on community and national boards and provided leadership to many diverse organizations. Awarded two purple hearts for combat wounds during the Vietnam War; "Top Cop" award from the National Association of Police Organizations, 2000.

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Dr. Antonia Novello, physician and former U.S. surgeon general was born Antonia Coello in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on August 23, 1944. She received her B.S. degree from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras in 1965 and her M.D. 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. Novello remained at Michigan in 1973-1974 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. From 1976 to 1978, she was in private practice in pediatrics in Springfield, Virginia.

In 1978, Novello joined the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, her first assignment being as a project officer at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She held various positions at NIH, rising to the job of Deputy Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 1986. She also served as Coordinator for AIDS Research for NICHD from September, 1987. In this role, she developed a particular interest in pediatric AIDS.

During her years at NIH, Novello earned an M.P.H. degree from the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1982. From 1976, she also held a clinical appointment in pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital. Novello also made major contributions to the drafting and enactment of the Organ Transplantation Procurement Act of 1984 while assigned to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

Antonia Novello was appointed Surgeon General by President Bush, beginning her tenure on March 9, 1990. 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 Health and Human Services Inspector General to issue a series of eight reports on the subject. Novello also similarly 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 remained in the post of Surgeon General through June 30, 1993. She then served as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Special Representative for Health and Nutrition from 1993 to 1996. In 1996, she became Visiting Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Dr. Novello became Commissioner of Health for the State of New York in 1999.

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Dr. Severo Ochoa, the former chairman of the department of biochemistry at New York University, won a Nobel Prize in 1959 for medicine. He won the prize for discovering how to develop a substance called RNA in a test tube. RNA fosters cell function, and it helps us better understand cell health and disease.

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Elena Rios, M.D., M.S.P.H., is the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) in Washington, DC. Established in 1994 NHMA is a non-profit association representing 36,000 licensed Hispanic physicians in the United States. The mission of the organization is to improve the health of Hispanics and other underserved populations. As a rapidly growing national resource based in the nation's capital, NHMA provides policymakers and health care providers with expert information and support in strengthening health service delivery to Hispanic communities across the nation. At its inception, NHMA held strategic planning meetings with physicians in five cities of the country, identifying the most critical issues they were facing and we took steps to define a blueprint of future activities in the following areas: delivery system, medical education, research, policy, and communications. In 1997, NHMA began convening its Annual Hispanic Health Conference in March each year in Washington, DC.

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Other Notable Hispanics in Health Care

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Related Links and Resources

With Hispanic Heritage Month comes a myriad of celebrations, observances and culturally enlightening events and exhibits. It's a time to celebrate what it means to be Hispanic in America. Art exhibits, lectures, dances and festivals are among the many activities featured throughout the month.

Here are just of few examples of the types of information and activities available about Hispanic Heritage Month.*


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(Last Modified: September 28, 2004)