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C. Everett Koop, M.D., Former Surgeon General, Dies

February 26, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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C. Everett Koop, M.D., a pediatric surgeon who served as the 13th Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1989, died on Feb. 25 at the age of 96, at his home in Hanover, N.H.

His death was confirmed by Susan A. Wills, an assistant at the Geisel School of Medicine, at Dartmouth College, which has an institute named after Dr. Koop, as The New York Times reported on the evening of Feb. 25.

Dr. Koop was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Oct. 14, 1916; his grandparents had been German immigrants. Koop obtained his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1937, and his M.D. degree from Cornell Medical College in 1941. During the 1940s and 1950s, he rose in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine to become professor of pediatric surgery, and later, professor of pediatrics. He was a pioneer in the pediatric surgery field. In February 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Dr. Koop to be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health; nine months later, he was nominated as Surgeon General.  He was Surgeon General from Jan. 21, 1982 to Oct. 1, 1989.

As Times noted, “Dr. Koop issued empathic warnings about the dangers of smoking, and he almost single-handedly pushed the government into taking a more aggressive stand against AIDS. And despite his steadfast moral opposition to abortion, he refused to use his office as a pulpit from which to preach against. It.”

And the Washington Post noted that “Dr. Koop was the most recognized surgeon general of the 20th century. He almost always appeared in the epauleted and ribboned blue or white uniform denoting his leadership fo the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. With his mustacheless beard, deep voice and grim expression, he looked like a Civil War admiral or, as some cartoonists suggested, a refugee from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. The theatrical appearance, however,” the Post noted, “masked a fierce self-confidence, an unyielding commitment to professional excellence and a willingness to challenge the expectations of his patrons.” As was widely noted, he was the most famous Surgeon General, and one of the very few who broke through to a level of recognition by average Americans.

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