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Claiming Dr. Koop: New Hampshire roots ran deep

February 28. 2013 9:03PM

New Hampshire has as much claim to Dr. C. Everett Koop, who died at his Hanover home last week, as does any state. He went to Dartmouth College, spent summers with his family here, and added immensely to the education of health professionals through his long affiliation with Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center and the institute named in his honor at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine.

New Hampshire and the nation have a lot to be thankful for in that Dr. Koop walked in our midst. He was a most extraordinary individual.

His strong, quiet faith in God grounded him and guided him through his amazing 96 years. As Ronald Reagan's Surgeon General, Dr. Koop confronted the new AIDS epidemic with compassion and common medical sense. As with abortion, which he found morally wrong, Dr. Koop put his personal feelings aside when it came to dealing with AIDS. He pushed education and information.

He almost didn't get the Surgeon General's job. Liberals, including Teddy Kennedy, thought Koop's views on abortion were enough to disqualify him. But as a New York Times obituary noted, "some senators who had been hesitant to support him said he had convinced them of his integrity."

Indeed, Dr. Koop recalled for the Times that as he and his wife drove to the confirmation hearings, he told her, "If I ever have to say anything I don't believe or feel shouldn't be said, we'll go home."

The AIDS controversy and his war against smoking, plus his flashy Surgeon General's uniform and his Amish-style beard, made it easy to overlook Dr. Koop's incredible career as a pediatric surgeon. Thousands of parents owe their children's lives to him, including several pairs of conjoined twins that he was able to separate with his deft touch.

Dr. Koop's love for families and his faith helped turn his own personal tragedy into helping others. When his youngest son, David, a Dartmouth undergrad, was killed on the Cannon Mountain cliffs in a climbing accident, Koop and his wife wrote a book about coping with such tragedy. Even through their tears, they helped others.

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