“The Right Stuff ” is a term popularized by author Tom Wolfe in his rollicking, uproarious, roller-coaster-ride of a book by the same name:¬† a book about the seven¬†original astronauts¬†selected for Project Mercury.
They were men who had what it took to climb into a massive rocket loaded with explosive fuel and blast off into space. They had the Right Stuff.
In that spirit I’ll present awards from time to time to people with the Right Stuff. People who take on a challenge and triumph over obstacles. Or who suddenly, unexpectedly find themselves in a challenging situation and rise to the occasion quietly and competently. Those who demonstrate what a single person can accomplish if she or he has the Right Stuff.
And the¬†fourth Right Stuff Award goes to Dr. Kenneth Cooper of Dallas, Texas
Bucking the conventional wisdom takes courage. And as recently as the late 1960’s, the conventional wisdom was that the treatment for heart attacks was rest–lots and lots of rest. In fact, when Kenneth Cooper¬†was in medical school,
We¬†were taught that you shouldn’t exercise vigorously after 40 years of age [because] you’ll kill yourself.
Publication of Aerobics book
After medical school, Dr. Cooper joined the Army. He¬†later switched to the Air Force where he conducted research and¬†developed the 12-minute fitness test, the treadmill stress test, and the Aerobics Point System. His book¬†Aerobics, about his findings, was published in 1968 and sold very well to the public.
However, the book¬†caused an uproar in the medical community. Doctors warned that the streets would be full of dead joggers if people followed Cooper’s recommendations.¬†¬†
Move to Dallas
In 1970, Dr. Cooper left the Air Force and moved to Dallas. There he started¬†his practice in preventive medicine¬†and created the Cooper Aerobics Center¬†, a research institute. The Cooper Center’s philosophy is that it is easier to maintain good health through proper exercise, diet and emotional balance then to regain it once it is lost.
According to Dr. Cooper, the idea of preventive medicine was still unheard of. Physicians thought exercise would kill people, though some of the opposition seemed to spring more from self-interest then from other considerations. Some doctors in Dallas expressed concern that Dr. Cooper was trying to put them out of business while others questioned how a doctor could make a living taking care of healthy people.
Hearing on license revocation
The Dallas County Medical Society tried to shut down the business, and at one point, Dr. Cooper was even called before the Dallas Board of Censures, which considered revoking his medical license because he was conducting treadmill tests on people with heart disease.
Fortunately, after Dr. Cooper presented his voluminous research findings about the effects of his tests, the board decided against revoking his license. And¬†the chairman of the board decided to perform maximal stress testing in his own practice.
Since writing Aerobics, Dr. Cooper has written 18 other books on fitness. His latest book was co-written with his son Dr. Tyler Cooper who works with him at the Cooper Center. In 2007 Dr. Cooper founded the Our Kids Health Foundation¬†, lobbied for legislation requiring schools to increase P.E. class time and give yearly fitness tests, and raised $2.5 million from private citizens and organizations to fund the testing.
Now 78, Dr. Cooper is CEO of the Cooper Aerobics Center, lectures internationally, sees some patients, and travels with his family. He continues to¬†practice what he preaches with a program of aerobic exercise and strength training.
Dr. Cooper’s Aerobics book has had a huge influence on my life. What about you? I’d love to hear from you.