Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, a pediatric surgeon turned public health advocate, died Monday. He was 96.
Koop served as surgeon general from 1982 to 1989, under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
He was outspoken on controversial public health issues and did much to raise the profile the office of the surgeon general.
He died peacefully at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College said in a news release announcing his death.
“Dr. Koop did more than take care of his individual patients — he taught all of us about critical health issues that affect our larger society,” said Dartmouth President Carol L. Folt. “Through that knowledge, he empowered each of us to improve our own well-being and quality of life. Dr. Koop’s commitment to education allowed him to do something most physicians can only dream of: improving the health of millions of people worldwide.”
Koop, called “Chick” by his friends, was perhaps best known for his work around HIV/AIDS. He wrote a brochure about the disease that was sent to 107 million households in the United States in 1988. It was the largest public health mailing ever, according to a biography of Koop on a website of the surgeon general.
He was also well-known for his work around tobacco, calling for a “smoke-free” society. His 1986 surgeon general’s report on the dangers of secondhand smoke was seminal.
“That was the shot heard around the world, and it began to change public policy everywhere,” said John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.
The report started the move toward prohibiting smoking on airplanes, restaurants and at workplaces.
“The legacy of C. Everett Koop is how a wonderful, famous pediatric surgeon, who’d already made a name for himself, was willing at a relatively advanced age to do public service and show bold leadership that would have dramatic impact and change the world,” Seffrin said. …
He was the author of more than 200 articles and books and the recipient of various awards. In 1991, Koop won an Emmy for a five-part series on health care reform, Dartmouth said. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. …