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2022 C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Awarded to Dr. Carolyn Dresler

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2022 C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Awarded to Dr. Carolyn Dresler

RIDGEWAY, COLORADO – SEPTEMBER 16, 2022 – Today, the American Lung Association honored Dr. Carolyn Dresler with the 2022 C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Award. Named after the 1980s U.S. Surgeon General who greatly advanced the fight against the tobacco epidemic, the Koop Award is among the most prestigious in the public health field.

Watch ASH’s video honoring Dr. Dresler and featuring several colleagues from her career here and below>

Dr. Dresler is a former thoracic surgeon who dedicated much of her life to combatting the leading reason for patients to come under her care – smoking. She recently retired to Colorado and continues to press for anti-tobacco policies at the local, state, national and global levels as a volunteer for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

“Carolyn has been not only a mentor and a friend, but also an amazing leader in the area of tobacco control,” said Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health. “She’s a physician who authored the seminal paper in Human Rights Quarterly on the connection between tobacco and human rights, a connection which has shaped our work.”

While the Koop award recognizes her lifetime of achievements, the American Lung Association pointed specifically to Dr. Dresler’s key role in developing a human rights-based approach to the tobacco epidemic, a strategy that is prevalent in public health today but was virtually unheard of even a few years ago.

In 2003, Dr. Dresler took a leave of absence to study human rights under Stephen Marks at Harvard University. Her thesis was adapted and published as “The Emerging Human Right to Tobacco Control” in the journal Human Rights Quarterly in 2006.

Professor Marks, at first skeptical of Dr. Dresler’s assertion that the tobacco industry violates human rights every day simply by marketing and selling products they know will addict and kill, co-authored the paper.

 “I was awakened, thanks to Carolyn, to the critical importance of tobacco control not only as a major public health issue but also as a human rights issue,” said Stephen Marks, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In 2009, Dr. Dresler became the founder and board chair of the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network, a global non-governmental organization dedicated to using human rights to end the tobacco epidemic.

Dr. Dresler has had a profound impact on the way public health advocates, researchers and officials view the tobacco epidemic. The human rights-based approach provides the foundation for several cutting-edge policy strategies, including “tobacco endgame,” which seeks to phase out the sale of tobacco products, as well as a new emphasis on health equity in policy outcomes.

Action on Smoking and Health warmly congratulates Dr. Dresler, and is proud to include her, and her determination and expertise, on their team.


Founded in 1967, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization, dedicated to a world with ZERO tobacco deaths. Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH supports bold solutions proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. https://ash.org