A LIFE WELL USED
Many people believe that each person has a purpose in life, something that will make his life worthwhile and helpful to others. Billy Graham summarized C. Everett Koop the best when he said, He was determined, no matter what the personal cost, to do the right thing for the health of the American People (Koop, Back Cover). C. Everett Koop realized his purpose in life and accomplished the task of making his life worthwhile by helping others.
C. Everett s Life began in Brooklyn in 1916. He grew up as an only child. His mother was warned to avoid pregnancies after his older brother, who was still born, almost killed her during birth. However, his mother did not head the doctor s warning and five years later, C Everett Koop came into this world. Koop had a very traumatic birth. His mother was in labor for ninety-two hours. Eventually, The doctors performed a cesarean section. C. Everett Koop said, I often wonder if my traumatic entry into this world had something to do with the path I chose in life (Koop, 20 ).
When Koop was in grade school he said that he knew that he wanted to be a surgeon. He thought about it everyday and dreamed about what it would be like. Koop went to Dewey High School in Brooklyn for only a short time. After a confrontation with his teacher, Koop transferred to Flatbush School in Brooklyn (Koop, 33 )
Koop could not wait until medical school to see surgery so he cajoled his father into asking a bank customer, who was a surgeon, into letting him watch him operate. The first surgery that Koop saw was a submucosal resection of deformed bones in a patient s nose. At 14, Koop found very easy access into the operating theatres in Brooklyn. Every Saturday he would go and watch the surgeries. The surgeons got to know him and would tell him about the procedures and explain what they were doing it as they performed the surgery. After he had enough of watching he decided that he wanted to try his own hand at it at home. Koop had a lab in his basement. He had rabbits, rats and various other animals. Koop enjoyed anesthetizing the animals and then removing duplicate organs or segments of the intestines. His mother was willing to be his assistant. In a new, clean garbage pail they would place the animal to be anesthetized with an ether saturated piece of cotton. When the animal was asleep, he would put it on the operating table and his mother would maintain the anesthesia (Koop, 42).
Koop wrote in his journal when he was sixteen, Now at sixteen, I picture myself a great surgeon being consulted by other surgeons no less great. Nothing seems to give me a bigger thrill and would please me more than to operate on a human being from an altruistic viewpoint of removing his ills, or from the scientific view of giving to science information unknown to it. Soon, Koop made another landmark in his life when he went to Dartmouth College. He met his love, Betty there, which he would spend the rest of his life with. He also obtained the skills, and the knowledge that he would need later to be a great surgeon and Surgeon General. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1937. Then after Columbia s University s College of Physicians and Surgeons turned him down he went to Cornell University. He graduated in June 1941 from Cornell University. Then he made an application to a training program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and was turned away because he was married. He finally ended up in an interview at the University of Pennsylvania and got an internship at Pennsylvania Hospital. He enjoyed that greatly. He worked with many of the best doctors and surgeons and learned a great deal. At times, money was short but him and Betty made it through the hard times. Later, Koop said that it was well worth the sacrifice to be so privileged during these times. (Koop, 70)
After a series of promotions he was named professor of Pediatric Surgery at the school of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in 1959, and later Professor of Pediatrics in 1971 (C. Everett Koop, 1)
At the end of WW2 Koop s residency was in sight. He had loved Philadelphia greatly but he was ready for a change of scenery. In the late 1945, he made a trip back to New Hampshire. There he talked with the chief of surgery at the Dartmouth Medical School and learned that they had a place for him at the end of his residency. Then he made a trip back to Philadelphia. He thought he had his mind up to go back to New Hampshire. Then two days later, Raudin the dean of the University of Pennsylvania who he had grown fond of burst in the door at five in the morning. He asked him, What do you plan to do with your life? and Koop replied, Well, Dr. Raudin I have grown fond of the University of Pennsylvania. I also have invested a lot of my life in your surgical service. I would like to stay here. There is a weak spot in your program and that s the tumor clinic. Give that to me, and I ll make it sing for you. However, Raudin had already came up with another outstanding idea. He said, How would you like to be the Chief of Surgery in the Children s Hospital? This one question changed Koop s life and all of his plans (Koop, 97)
Koop faced many struggles. During this time, pediatric surgery was not considered a specialty. He was opposed for attempting to get recognition for pediatric surgery as a separate specialty (Authors and Experts, 1). Soon, Raudin needed a chief surgeon at the Children s Hospital. After four of the top surgeons declined the position, Koop accepted it. One of the hardest things in this position was dealing with the pediatricians who evidently knew everything already about medicine and children. They didn t appreciate Koop and they did not recognize the specialty of pediatric surgery. Koop changed the way that things were done in the hospital. Many of the doctors there resented him for changing their routines. But, he did not let that stop him. He did what he thought was best for the patients, no matter what the personal costs (Koop, 102)
Koop also changed a lot during these times. He became a stronger Christian and found even more meaning to his life. He had always thought of himself as a Christian and he was raised in a Christian home. It was Erna Goulding that sensed he was searching for a deeper spiritual meaning. One Sunday, Erna asked C. Everett and Betty if they would join her at the Tenth Presbyterian Church. However, they declined because they had prior plans. However, the next Sunday Koop went to the Tenth Presbyterian Church and he enjoyed it greatly. He was so enthusiast that he continued going for two years. After about seven months he realized that he wasn t just watching anymore he was now participating in the church. He said, It was not until I sat in that Philadelphia church balcony that I really understood the Christian gospel: that we are sinners, unable to satisfy God s standard of righteousness and justice no matter how much we try. I understood more clearly the meaning of the crucifixion, Christ s sacrifice and divine forgiveness. I realized that either my sins were on my shoulders, or they were on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. Most of all, I understood the Love of God. Like many new Christians- and many old Christians I found the most meaningful verse in the Bible to be John 3:16. I was finally a believer (Koop, 115).
His spiritual awakening had a profound affect on his life and everything that happened thereafter. Everyday, he was faced with the pain and suffering of his patients and their parents. He now had the assurance that there was a greater plan that he could trust in. (Koop, 116)
He tried to do everything that he could for the children. Because of his aggressiveness, he learned a lot and helped out a lot. He always felt like he was on the cutting edge. He always had an abiding reverence for the ways its anatomical details allowed the body to function. Koop served as a surgeon for forty years and during this time he helped many people and helped many people and touched many lives. He changed the way that pediatric surgery was viewed. He accomplished many first time surgeries and made many new discoveries during the time he was a surgeon (Mount Union College Schooler Lecture, Dr. C. Everett Koop, 1)
After he stopped operating he became the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery form 1964 to 1976 (Authors and Experts, 1).
Then Koop was sworn in as the U.S. Surgeon on November 17, 1981. As Surgeon General, Koop advised the public on a variety of health matters: smoking and health hazards, and the importance of immunization and disease protection and prevention.
In Koop s life he influenced and helped many people. C. Everett Koop is definitely a great medical hero who will be remembered forever for the accomplishments he made during his lifetime.
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