< Previous Page
At a congressional hearing in 2007, Koop spoke about political pressure on the surgeon general post. He said Reagan was pressed to fire him every day, but Reagan would not interfere.
Koop, worried that medicine had lost old-fashioned caring and personal relationships between doctors and patients, opened his institute at Dartmouth to teach medical students basic values and ethics. He also was a part-owner of a short-lived venture, drkoop.com, to provide consumer health care information via the Internet.
Koop was born in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, the only son of a Manhattan banker and the nephew of a doctor. He said by age 5 he knew he wanted to be a surgeon and at age 13 he practiced his skills on neighborhood cats.
He attended Dartmouth, where he received the nickname Chick, short for "chicken Koop." It stuck for life.
Koop received his medical degree at Cornell Medical College, choosing pediatric surgery because so few surgeons practiced it.
In 1938, he married Elizabeth Flanagan, the daughter of a Connecticut doctor. They had four children, one of whom died in a mountain climbing accident when he was 20.
Koop was appointed surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and served as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
He pioneered surgery on newborns and successfully separated three sets of conjoined twins. He won national acclaim by reconstructing the chest of a baby born with the heart outside the body.
Although raised as a Baptist, he was drawn to a Presbyterian church near the hospital, where he developed an abiding faith. He began praying at the bedside of his young patients — ignoring the snickers of some of his colleagues.
Koop’s wife died in 2007, and he married Cora Hogue in 2010.
He was by far the best-known surgeon general and for decades afterward was still a recognized personality.
"I was walking down the street with him one time" about five years ago, recalled Dr. George Wohlreich, director of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, a medical society with which Koop had longstanding ties. "People were yelling out, ‘There goes Dr. Koop!’ You’d have thought he was a rock star."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.