For Release: March 18, 2010
David Corriveau, Media Relations Officer, Dartmouth Medical School, at David.A.Corriveau@Dartmouth.edu or 603-653-0771;
or Susan Wills, executive assistant, C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth, Susan.A.Wills@Dartmouth.edu or 603-646-9890
Dr. Koop honored for AIDS awareness legacy
Lebanon, N.H.—Citing the "bold" and "courageous" efforts that C. Everett Koop, M.D., took to prevent and to raise awareness of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) during his tenure as Surgeon General, Indiana University's Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention (RCAP) presented Koop with its 2010 Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award on March 17, 2010.
William L. Yarber, senior director of RCAP, came to Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) from Indiana for the ceremony, along with Jeanne White Ginder, in whose son's memory the award is named.
Now Senior Scholar of the C. Everett Koop Institute at DMS, Koop was serving as Surgeon General in 1986 when he published the Surgeon General's Report on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. With it, he became the first federal authority to provide clear and explicit information about how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is transmitted and how Americans could protect themselves from the virus that causes AIDS.
"It was really dramatic because it made the problem real," Yarber said. "That was before the Internet so when the Koop Report came out calling for sex education for children beginning at the grade three level, and the importance of using condoms, it was landmark."
Two years later the Surgeon General mailed a pamphlet, "Understanding AIDS," to every household in America, including the rural communities served by RCAP, a federally funded center for prevention, information, and research at IU's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.
"The information was very plain-spoken and nonjudgmental about how HIV is transmitted and prevented," Yarber said. "He was so visible and so courageous. He is a religious man with some traditional values, yet he put politics aside to place the health needs of the public first. Under very difficult circumstances, he stood for the same principles as Ryan, whose major message was to increase AIDS awareness and to end AIDS discrimination and stigma."
Ryan White had acquired HIV from a tainted treatment for hemophilia as a teenager in Indiana. After experiencing discrimination at his hometown school, he went on to become a nationally known advocate for AIDS research and awareness before his death in 1990.
"You were such a blessing in our life," Ginder, the first recipient of the White award, told Koop during the presentation. "You said, 'Ryan White, this boy, should be in school.' You made a difference in everybody's lives."
Before becoming Surgeon General, Koop had worked as an internationally respected pediatric surgeon and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. In his new role as the government's chief spokesman regarding AIDS, he advised the public on numerous other health issues, including smoking, diet and nutrition, environmental health hazards, and the importance of immunization and disease prevention.
On the subject of AIDS, Koop considered himself a voice crying in the wilderness among Reagan-administration officials in the early and mid-1980s.
"I felt alone," he said after the award presentation on the 17th. "I didn't have anybody standing on the sidelines saying, 'Go get 'em, boys!' People in the Cabinet were opposed to me."
Koop continues his public-health advocacy through writings, electronic media, public appearances, personal contacts, and his work at the Koop Institute.
Among his many awards, Koop, a 1937 graduate of Dartmouth College, previously received the Denis Brown Gold Medal from the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons; the William E. Ladd Gold Medal from the American Academy of Pediatrics; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest award. He belongs to the American Surgical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society, and a number of other professional societies in the U.S. and abroad.
Koop is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and a member of the American College of Preventive Medicine. He is chair of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of Health and Medicine Foundation, past chair of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, honorary chair of The Health Project, and a director of the Biopure Corporation and Chairman of its Scientific Advisory Board. He is an advisor to or on the board of directors of organizations that include the National HealthNetwork, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, AIDS Care Education and Training in the United Kingdom, and the International Health and Medical Film Festival, Inc.
In October of 2009, a delegation from Scotland came to the United States to present Koop with Honorary Fellowship in the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.