Former U. S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop listens June 5, 2001 during an AIDS policy symposium in Washington, D. C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(CNN) -- 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
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.
Prior to his tenure as
surgeon general, Koop was surgeon-in-chief at the Children's Hospital of
Philadelphia, where he was a pioneer in the field of pediatric surgery
and helped to establish the country's first neonatal intensive care
nursery. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Dartmouth said.
Koop was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Dartmouth, Weill Cornell Medical College and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
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.
Known for wearing bow
ties, suspenders and having a clipped beard, Koop is survived by his
wife, three children and eight grandchildren. His first wife, to whom he
was married for nearly 70 years, died in 2007.
"Dr. Koop was not only a
pioneering pediatric surgeon but also one of the most courageous and
passionate public health advocates of the past century," said Wiley W.
Souba, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. "He did not
back down from deeply rooted health challenges or powerful interests
that stood in the way of needed change. Instead, he fought, he educated,
and he transformed lives for the better."