C. Everett Koop, the 13th U.S. surgeon general whose outspoken leadership sparked advancements in tobacco cessation and AIDS prevention, passed away today at age 96.

C. Everett Koop

Koop performed at the U.S. Capitol Steps political comedy show during APHA’s 2007 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Photo by APHA

C. Everett Koop

C. Everett Koop, the 13th U.S. surgeon general, passed away today at the age of 96. Photo by Koop Institute

Koop’s public health legacy is one of the most decorated in U.S. history. Among his many achievements, two during his time in the surgeon general’s office stand out:

  • “Understanding AIDS,” a 1986 report he sent to every American household, which led to groundbreaking advances in science, medicine, prevention and healthy behavior; and
  • his call for a smoke-free society, which led to continuous declines in tobacco use. During his seven years in office, the percentage of smokers dropped from 34 percent to 26 percent of the nation’s population.

“When you look back at the last 75 years, it’s impossible to bring up our nation’s greatest heroes and not mention the contributions of Dr. Koop,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “His efforts were masterful and effective. He awoke a sleeping nation to the risks of HIV/ AIDS and prodded policymakers, including a president, to take action on leading public health concerns.”

In 1988, APHA presented Koop with the Award of Excellence for “exceptionally meritorious contribution to the improvement of health of the people.”