It was during a White House bomb scare in 1984 that C. Everett Koop, M.D., had a unique chance to address then-President Ronald Reagan. When Secret Service agents protecting the president pushed Koop and Reagan into a broom closet together, Koop didn't waste the chance to look Reagan in the eye and tell him about the disease no one wanted to discuss in the early '80s: AIDS.
"Everyone who stood between me and the president didn't want me to talk to him about AIDS," says Koop, now 85. So when he had the president cornered, he told Reagan, "We're fighting a disease, not the people who have it." Reagan didn't respond.
Whether it's AIDS, smoking, drunken driving, or a slate of other issues, Koop was and continues to be an outspoken advocate for public health. After a 39-year career during which Koop helped pioneer the nascent field of pediatric surgery, he served as surgeon general under Reagan from 1981 to 1989.
After leaving his post in that administration, Koop received some 50 honorary degrees and even traveled with Hillary Rodham Clinton to promote discussions of major healthcare reform.
In 1997, Koop decided to take on his next big project when he devised the company that would eventually become drkoop.com, a Web-based resource for patients.
Koop now teaches in the business, engineering and medical schools at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.