Cory SerVaas, M.D., passed away on March 6, 2020. She was the Post’s editor and guiding force for 33 years – and, more visibly, the author of our readers’ favorite sections, “Medical Mailbox” and “Ask Dr. Cory.”
The physician, health educator, television personality, inventor, and journalist lived life guided by the words of her mentor Benjamin Franklin, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
Born on June 21, 1924, Cory grew up on a farm near Pella, Iowa, attending a one-room country school house with her siblings. From her humble beginnings, she graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism, then did postgraduate work at Columbia University. In 1948, she met Dr. Beurt SerVaas at a Dutch Reform Church in New York City, and in 1950 they married and moved to Indianapolis, where they raised five children. Cory always wanted to study medicine, so once all the kids were in school, she staged her second act by enrolling in the Indiana University School of Medicine, graduating in 1969.
As editor of The Saturday Evening Post from 1975 to 2007, Dr. SerVaas met the world’s leading scientists, physicians, researchers, and thinkers, translating complex materials into language readers could easily understand in her columns, features, and numerous books — including The Saturday Evening Post Fiber and Bran Better Health Cookbook and Ask Dr. Cory.
As longtime Post readers know, she was way ahead of her time and a tireless champion for public health. In the 1970s, she took on the tobacco industry, sacrificing ad revenue by becoming one of the first national magazines to refuse tobacco advertising, launching anti-smoking campaigns and becoming one of the industry’s most outspoken foes. She spearheaded ground-breaking campaigns that forever changed the national dialogue on diet, early detection of disease, genetics, vitamin supplementation, smoking cessation, cancer, exercise, mental health, and heart disease, among many others. In the 1980s, the health crusader hit the road, launching a fleet of mobile screening units to provide for the early detection of heart disease, breast, and prostate cancers. Throughout her career, she helped readers prepare for the unpredictable by promoting lifesaving skills everyone should know — from how to perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver to how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) during sudden cardiac arrest — long before these principles went mainstream. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed her to serve on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Cory also shared her message of better health through regular exercise and sound nutrition with young readers in our nonprofit’s national youth publications, including Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty. In 1993, she launched the annual Tulip Time Scholarship Games, a national event attracting children from around the country to compete in athletic, spelling, and other events, awarding college scholarships to the winners for later use. Between 1993 and 2006, the Children’s Better Health Institute awarded more than one million dollars in scholarships to youth from around the country.
How many lives did she touch? We may never know. Over the years, we received thousands of letters from Post readers, grateful for her support and advice — many crediting her with saving their lives or the life of a loved one.
Dr. Cory SerVaas had an intense desire to make the world a better place by solving problems that mattered to you, to all of us. Throughout her life, she heralded life-enhancing discoveries and the men and women behind them, bringing both onto the national stage — and in the process revolutionizing how we live.
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