Retired Surgeon General of the United States C. Everett Koop died Feb. 25 at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire at the age of 96. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Dr. Koop served as the Surgeon General from 1982 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. The Philadelphia pediatrician faced heavy opposition when he was first nominated by President Reagan with opponents citing his conservative views as their reason. During his confirmation hearing, Koop promised not to use his position as a venue for pressing his religious views on the nation. And while he staunchly fought to bring health issues to the forefront of society, he kept his word to Congress.
Calling himself the health conscience of the country, he is best known for bringing the job of Surgeon General to the forefront with his awareness on the dangers of smoking – he called it as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Koop surprised political conservatives by his proactive stance for the use of condoms and sex education as a way to help stop the spread of the then new disease known as AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
After leaving his post as Surgeon General, Dr. Koop continued in his role as a health advocate and promoted public health causes. Koop was a chairman of the National Safe Kids Campaign and served as one of President Bill Clinton's advisors on health care.
Concerned over doctor patient relationships, Koop opened an institute at his alma mater -- to teach medical students teaching basic values and ethics in medicine.
He was born Charles Everett Koop Oct. 14, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. Knowing at a very early age that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Koop began his medical studies by practicing on neighborhood cats. After earning his medical degree at Cornell Medical College, Koop served as a physician for 35 years before being named the nation's top physician. Koop served as Chief Surgeon at the Philadelphia Children's Hospital and taught at the University of Pennsylvania's Medical School.
Koop chose pediatric surgery in medical school because few doctors were entering the field at the time. During his medical career, he became a pioneer of newborn surgery by creating the nation's first neonatal intensive care unit, separating three sets of conjoined twins, and performing reconstructive surgery on a baby who was born with the heart outside of the chest cavity.
He married Elizabeth Flanagan in 1938. The couple had four children – Allen, Norman, David, and Elizabeth.
A devoutly religious man, Koop could be seen praying at the bedside of his young patients. He once noted that it was said there were no atheists in foxholes; nor were there any at the bedside of a dying child.
Koop is predeceased by son David and his wife Elizabeth of nearly 70 years.