|C. Everett Koop|
AKA Charles Everett Koop
Birthplace: Brooklyn, NY
Location of death: Hanover, NH
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Party Affiliation: Republican
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: US Surgeon General, 1982-89
C. Everett Koop -- or "Chick", as friends called him -- was a Brooklyn-born bearded pediatrician and former professor. He was Surgeon-in-Chief of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia from 1948 until 1981, when he was appointed U.S. Surgeon General by President Ronald Reagan. Koop's nomination was controversial, because most of his political positions were even farther right than Reagan's. Koop promised to put his politics aside, however, and to a large extent he actually did.
By far the biggest health crisis during the Reagan administration was AIDS, an epidemic which was first detected at about the time Koop became Surgeon General. Koop could be faulted for being slow on the uptake, as several years passed and thousands were dead before his office compiled its first official report. On the other hand, Koop was new to the Washington bureaucracy, and AIDS was mostly infecting gay men and minorities -- not exactly the natural constituency of the conservative Reagan administration. For many months, Koop seemed to be the only high-level official in Washington willing to mention AIDS at all.
In 1986, Koop completed a report on the growing AIDS epidemic, urging Reagan to expand sex education for children beginning by third grade, and to mount a publicity campaign about the importance of using condoms. "There is now no doubt that we need sex education in schools and that it [should] include information on heterosexual and homosexual relationships", Koop wrote. "The need is critical and the price of neglect is high. The lives of our young people depend on our fulfilling our responsibility".
Conservatives objected, since Koop's plan would involve using dirty words like "condom" and "dental dam", and they have argued ever since that sex education should either be taught at home or be centered on teaching abstinence instead of frankly explaining safer sex. But Koop did get a widespread education program underway, and considering where Koop came from and what he was up against politically, this was a noteworthy accomplishment. In 1988, Koop wrote a pamphlet called Understanding AIDS, and had it sent to every household in America -- 107 million copies, with plainspoken, non-judgmental answers to pertinent questions.
Prior to Koop's tenure, Surgeon General was a little-noticed position, a well-paid job with only two formal responsibilities: overseeing about 6,000 members of the Commissioned Corps (a little-known branch of the little-known U.S. Public Health Service) and acting as "spokesperson to the nation on matters of public health". Koop made himself the first "celebrity Surgeon General", issuing widely-reported public pronouncements on AIDS and many other health-related issues, including smoking and health, diet and nutrition, environmental health hazards, and the importance of immunization and disease prevention. He warned America that violent video games could cause "aberrations in childhood behavior".
Koop was adamantly anti-abortion, and his 1979 book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? helped make opposition to abortion a baseline right-wing political position. But in early 1989, Koop informed President Reagan that he would not be issuing the report Reagan had requested on the health risks of abortion. Despite his own opposition to abortion, Koop explained that there had been insufficient studies to determine whether abortion has any health risks beyond those of other surgeries.
After leaving office in 1989, Koop lent his name to a medical information website, DrKoop.com, but both Koop and the website neglected to mention that Koop was receiving commissions from the sale of products and services recommended at the site. Later, when the site started selling unapproved supplements, Koop ended his involvement with DrKoop.com, which then added a disclaimer explaining that the site "is not associated with C. Everett Koop, M.D."
In 1999, Koop testified before Congress that some medical workers' allergic reactions to latex gloves had been exaggerated to "borderline hysteria". Koop, however, neglected to mention that over the previous four years he had earned more than $650,000 in consulting fees from WRP Corporation -- a major manufacturer of latex gloves.
Koop continued to be a prominent voice in public health issues, until his death in 2013. He blasted big tobacco and criticized his own Republican Party for blocking comprehensive tobacco legislation. He was interviewed by satirical white British rapper Sacha Baron Cohen on Da Ali G Show, a farce from Britain's Channel 4, and he was featured as the voice of authority in educational films such as Pregnancy, AIDS: Everything You & Your Family Need to Know, Smoking: Everything You & Your Family Need to Know, and Pro-Life Doctors Speak Out.
Father: John Everett Koop (bank executive)
Mother: Helen Apel
Wife: Elizabeth Flanagan ("Betty", m. 1938, d. 2007)
Son: Allen Koop (history professor, b. 1944)
Son: Norman Koop (Presbyterian minister, b. 1946)
Son: David Charles Everett Koop (b. 1948, d. 1968 climbing accident)
Daughter: Elizabeth Koop Thompson (b. 1951)
Wife: Cora Hogue (m. 2010)
High School: Flatbush School
University: BS Zoology, Dartmouth College (1937)
Medical School: MD, Cornell University (1941)
University: University of Pennsylvania (1947)
US Surgeon General (1982-89)
US Official Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (1981-82)
Meese Commission witness (20-Jun-1985)
Caring Institute Board of Trustees (Honorary)
Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation Board of Directors
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board of Directors (former)
Research!America Board of Directors (Honorary)
Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity
Cosmos Club Award 1989
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism 1991
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
The Exorcist III (17-Aug-1990) · Himself
Author of books:
The Right to Live, the Right to Die (1976)
Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (1976, with Francis A. Schaeffer)
Pornography: A Human Tragedy (1987)
Ethical Imperatives and the New Physician (1988)
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