One of United Spinal Association’s prominent supporters C. Everett Koop, MD passed away on February 25, 2013 at the age of 96 at his home in Hanover, NH.
Koop, a Brooklyn, NY native and Dartmouth College alum, served as surgeon general from 1982 to 1989, under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
In 1984, Koop issued a challenge to Americans to create a smoke-free society in the United States by the year 2000. He even pushed Congress to pass legislation to include warning labels on cigarette packs and all tobacco advertising. The labels remain unchanged today. He had also brought greater public attention to violence against women.
Before his national prominence as surgeon general, Koop was a pioneering surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 1956, he established America’s first neonatal surgical intensive-care unit. He was also a professor of pediatric surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.
According to Wikipedia, Koops’ groundbreaking work as a surgeon included separating conjoined twins; inventing techniques for infant surgery still used today; and saving the lives of countless children who otherwise would have been allowed to die.
In a tribute published in The Providence Journal, Tom Nerney, the policy director for the Center for Self-Determination and executive director of the Institute on Health Policy and Ethics, shares his memories of Koop.
Nerney began a program under Medicaid to move control of long-term-care dollars from providers to individuals with disabilities and had helped to create the first advisory committee. Koop agreed to chair this committee.
Excerpt from Nerney’s tribute in Providence Journal:
“[He had a reputation] as a conservative, which he was. (I always think of him as a 19th Century conservative sea captain.)”
“So how did we become friends? I was in his office during the early years of the Reagan administration for a meeting on reauthorizing the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984. I was a special assistant to the assistant secretary of health and human services for special education and rehabilitative services. There were several officials from the administration besides myself. (This was before the White House found out that I was a registered Democrat.) His office was huge. As the meeting began I could no longer contain myself. I slipped my left hand into my jacket pocket and slowly fished out a cigarette. I turned slightly away from the others and struck the match. As I brought it to the tip of the cigarette and slowly inhaled I heard loud gasps and cries from the others. As I turned to the group Everett Koop slowly moved to the side of his desk and we all saw a glint of silver flash. Koop walked over to me and gently put a hand on my shoulder. He said “We don’t do that here, Tom.” In his hand he held a silver-lined cardboard ashtray on which he carefully put the cigarette. He made me promise to come back and see him as soon as a new type of nicotine gum came on the market.”
“Not once in all of our subsequent conversations did he ask me if I still smoked or even if I was a Democrat. I was surely a great medical failure but I remained his great admirer.”