Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
DLH is proud to join in the celebrations of National Hispanic Heritage Appreciation Month, recognizing the achievements and contributions of generations of Hispanic American champions who have inspired us all.
This annual observance stretches from September 15 to October 15, and we encourage all members of the DLH community to learn more about the history, cultures, and contributions of our neighbors and communities with roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
To begin that process, we would like to share the stories of four important figures you may not be familiar with. These four Hispanic Americans made great contributions to the fields of medicine, government, and education, and exemplify the excellence we strive for each day.
Dr. Antonia Novello
Dr. Antonia Novello was the first woman and the first Hispanic American to become Surgeon General of the United States. Growing up, Dr. Novello was frequently hospitalized with a medical condition that was not diagnosed and corrected until she was a teenager, as her family could not afford to take the trip to the surgical hospital where an operation could take place. This journey inspired her to pursue medical school, and she eventually earned her doctorate at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine.
In 1990, Dr. Novello was appointed Surgeon General of the United States by President George Bush. While serving, she placed particular emphasis on the health of young people, women, and underrepresented populations, and on improving access to care for all. She notably took on a campaign against the tobacco industry advertising aimed at children, including the advertisements that featured the famous cartoon character “Joe Camel.”
Lauro Cavazos served as the United States Secretary of Education from September 1988 to December 1990. In that role, he became the first Hispanic man or woman to serve in the U.S. Presidential Cabinet. Cavazos earned a BA and MA degree in zoology from Texas Tech University, along with a Ph.D. in physiology from Iowa State University. From there, he served as president of Texas Tech University.
Cavazos served as faculty at educational institutions throughout his career, including a tenure as the Dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine. Teaching is where his passion lied. After his resigning as Secretary of Education in 1990, he returned to his faculty position at Tufts University as a professor of public health and family medicine.
Serena Auñón-Chancellor was the first Hispanic American physician to travel to space – becoming NASA’s second female Hispanic astronaut overall. Originally hired by NASA to assist in medical operations for the International Space Station, in 2012 Auñón-Chancellor became an astronaut herself.
For her contributions to spaceflight crewmember clinical care throughout her career, Auñón-Chancellor was awarded the Julian E. Memorial Award from the Aerospace Medical Association. At various points, she served as a flight surgeon, spent over nine months in Russia supporting medical operations for astronauts at the International Space Station, and played a major role in the development of medical kits to support launch and landing in Kazakhstan.
Jane Delgado led the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (NAHH) as its first woman president. As president, Jane took aim at the racial and ethnic inequities in health. The NAHH provides services to over 100 million people annually, with projects that include smoking cessation programs and outreach for Hispanic participation in clinical trials. Recently, the NAHH did a bilingual campaign on COVID-19 precautions.
Earlier in her career, Jane worked to reduce health disparities in underrepresented populations at the Department of Health and Human Services. She was heavily involved in the 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, the first major U.S. effort to quantify such disparities.
Would you like to highlight the work and legacy of other Hispanic American leaders? Join the conversation, and share your stories, contributions, achievements, and other highlights in the comments below!