Dr. Koop was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 14, 1916, graduated from Dartmouth College in 1937 and received his M.D. degree from Cornell Medical College in 1941. After serving an internship at the Pennsylvania Hospital, he pursued postgraduate training at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Science (Medicine) in 1947. After promotions up the academic ladder, he was named Professor of Pediatric Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania in 1959 and Professor of Pediatrics in 1971. As Surgeon General, Dr. Koop advised the public on health matters such as smoking and health, diet and nutrition, environmental health hazards, and the importance of immunization and disease prevention. He oversaw the activities of the 6,000 member PHS Commissioned Corps. Specific responsibilities included serving as an ex-officio member of the Board of Regents, National Library of Medicine; Board of Regents, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Board of Directors, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology; and the Board of Governors, Gorgas Memorial Institute.
Dr. Koop has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards including seventeen honorary doctorates. He is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was awarded the Denis Brown Gold Medal by the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons; the William E. Ladd Gold Medal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of pediatric surgery; the Order of Duarte, Sanchez, and Mella, the highest award of the Dominican Republic, for his achievement in separating the conjoined Domician twins; and a number of other awards from civic, religious, medical and philanthropic organizations. He was awarded the Medal of the Legion of Honor by France in 1980, inducted into the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1982, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. In May 1983, Dr. Koop was awarded the Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal in recognition of his extraordinary leadership of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Dr. Koop was a member of the American Surgical Association, the Society of University Surgeons, the American Pediatric Surgical Association, and other professional societies. He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also held memberships in many international organizations. He was the author of more than 200 articles and books on the practice of medicine.
In 1992, Koop appeared in commercials for Life Alert, the only company he ever endorsed, and he remained their spokesman until his death in 2013.