Remembering C. Everett Koop, M.D., anti-smoking advocate | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Remembering C. Everett Koop, M.D., anti-smoking advocate

February 26, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor, with Mark Hagland, Contributing Editor
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C. Everett Koop, M.D.

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 Koop, as The New York Times reported on the evening of Feb. 25.


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 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.”

Regarding his stand against smoking, significant changes occured in the United States while Koop was in office.  The number of American smokers dropped by seven percent, 40 states had restricted smoking in public places, more than 800 local antismoking ordinances had been passed, and the federal government had restricted smoking in 6,800 federal buildings.