Charles Everett Koop was born in Brooklyn on October 14, 1916. He was an only child. He attended Dartmouth College, where he got his nickname “Chick.” He attended medicine school at Cornell University Medical College earning his MD 1941. In 1945, he was the first surgeon in chief at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which he held until his appointment as surgeon general. He also earned a doctor of science degree in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947.
Koop, a pediatric surgeon served as surgeon general from 1982 to 1989 during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Koop, sporting a fierce, full beard, is best known for the official report on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) produced in 1986. The blunt 36-page paper that discussed frankly how AIDS was transmitted; through unprotected sex, dirty needles and blood transfers and the ways the virus was not spread and how to protect yourself from it.
The AIDS report promoted the use of condoms for the sexually active and sex education for younger school aged children. The report pleased liberals and disturbed many of Koop’s supporters.
Koop always stated that sexual abstinence and monogamy were the best protection against AIDS, but that doctors had a obligation to inform people who did not choose that how they could live healthy.
Koop also made his mark in the struggle against smoking, with another report that told the public of the dangers of second-hand smoke. This report set up today’s extensive ban on smoking in public places.
Koop was one of the most high-profile surgeons general, before or since.
His nomination for surgeon general was opposed by pro-abortion groups who feared he would use the office to promote his anti-abortion views. Those views were developed over a life-time of saving newborns with life-threatening conditions. However, Koop avoided announcements on the subject during his time in office.
When he left public service, Dr. Koop became one of the first doctors to launch an online presence. His website, Dr. Koop.com, was set up to give dependable health information to the general public. However, like many online efforts of the time, it failed and went bankrupt in 2001.
Dr. Koop continued to be active. He headed the C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth. In 2010, wheelchair bound, nearly blind and deaf, Dr. Koop warned that AIDS was still a threat and over 50,000 new infections happened every year.
C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, died at his home in Hanover, N.H. on February 25, 2013. He was 96.