Surgeons General don’t get a whole lot of love, (surgeon) generally speaking. As proof of this assertion, in the seven-month-or-so existence of this blog we are yet to cover one. Happily for this underserved group, today’s the day! Our first subject to have held that prestigious post is the handsomely facial-haired C. Everett Koop. He is known to friends as “Chick”, as in “chicken coop”, which is pretty awesome.
C. Everett Koop, MD was Surgeon General from 1982 to 1989 under Presidents Reagan and Bush I. He picked up the name “Chick” while attending Dartmouth in the 1930s, and went on to become the first ever person named Chick to hand out legitimate medical advice to millions of people. And possibly the first ever person named Chick Koop to be taken seriously by anyone.
While his claim to fame is his stint as SG, Koop has a lengthy history in medicine on his resume beyond that. He served for 35 years as the surgeon-in-chief at the rather unfortunately acronymed Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP. It is unknown whether more amputations than average took place at CHOP or whether it’s just an awkward coincidence that you can say you got “chopped at CHOP”.
He rose to international prominence at CHOP, participating in groundbreaking surgeries separating sets of conjoined twins, inventing now common techniques for use in infant surgery, performing cutting-edge surgeries that had never been tried before, and enjoying delicious Caesar salads in their famed cafeteria. You could rightly say Chick was a bit of a badass at this time. He also became the first ever editor of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery when it was founded in ’66. Koop also has the distinction of being probably the only Surgeon General ever to have a song written about him. Even better, the song is by Frank Zappa. Here’s how the song “Promiscuous” starts :
The Surgeon General, Doctor Koop
S’posed to give you all the poop
But when he’s with P.M.R.C.
The poop he’s scoopin’
I will quote no more of the song to keep this blog family-friendly, but I think we can all agree that is some terrific poop-related rhyming. And that’s something everyone can enjoy.
A striking pattern in Dr. Koop’s biography is that it appears he was first to everything. First one to perform certain tricky surgeries. First editor of Journal of Pediatric Medicine. First Surgeon General to have a song written about them. He also had one of the very first medical advice websites during the dot-com craze in the late nineties with the well named DrKoop.com. In 1991, he hosted a documentary series on NBC entitled C. Everett Koop, MD. It ran for six episodes and is probably not available on Netflix, although I do encourage you to have a look just to be sure. I could not confirm whether or not they used the Zappa song as the theme song, but in my mind they did, and that’s good enough for me.