Dr. Oz, the Doctor Most Recognized as a Television Personality, but is he really?
By Adrienne Papp
Everybody knows Dr. Oz.
One’s of TV’s most popular daytime talk show host, Mehmet Cengiz Oz is also a cardiothoracic surgeon and author, who has become a very popular TV personality, offering medical advice and therapies involving alternative medicine. He is also the self appointed captain of the Energy Mobile but his advice has sometimes led to criticism by physicians, government officials and publications, including Popular Science and The New Yorker, citing it for being non giving non-scientific in nature.
Oz was born in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Suna and Mustafa Öz, who had emigrated from Konya Province, Turkey. He received an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and in 1986 he obtained MD and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and their Wharton School, respectively.
After receiving his medical credentials, Oz became a professor at the Department of Surgery at Columbia University, where he currently directs the Cardiovascular Institute and also works with the Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His research interests include heart replacement surgery, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, and health care policy. In terms of his approach to medicine, Oz described his philosophy to The New Yorker: “I want no more barriers between patient and medicine. I would take us all back a thousand years, when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village.”
There’s no better way to get to that village, of course, than through television, and Dr. Oz began spreading his word through that medium, first on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 and later on Larry King Live and other TV programs. In 2009, “The Dr. Oz Show,” a daily television program focusing on medical issues and personal health, was launched by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and Sony Pictures. He’s been a popular fixture on the television landscape ever since. On October 23, 2014, “Surgeon Oz,” a documentary covering Oz’s career as a surgeon, debuted on Oprah’s OWN channel.
But the influence of Dr. Oz isn’t just limited to television. He has co-authored many bestsellers with Michael F. Roizen, including six New York Times best sellers. The Dr. Oz section at the local library includes a “You” series with titles like “You: The Owner’s Manual,” “You: The Smart Patient, “You: On a Diet,” “You: Staying Young,” “You: Being Beautiful” as well as “Healing from the Heart.”
All of his hard work and a high media profile have paid off in terms of his public image. Awards and honors have come his way in the form of Time magazine’s ranking him 44th on its list of the “100 Most Influential People in 2008,” and Esquire magazine placed him on its list of the “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”. He was also named one of “The Harvard 100 Most Influential Alumni” by 02138 Magazine, and listed in “Doctors of the Year” by Hippocrates magazine and in “Healers of the Millennium” by Healthy Living magazine.
But, in site of all the accolades, or maybe because of if, Oz has also been subject to a lot of scrutiny and outright criticism. Many physicians are annoyed to hear their patients come in and say, “I heard on ‘Dr. Oz’…”
Critics, including some in Congress, have questioned the advice given by Oz, especially when it comes to promoting questionable diet aids. A group of ten physicians also urged that he be removed from Columbia University‘s medical faculty, accusing him of promoting “quack treatments.” As a result he has dropped sponsorship of the treatments and products in question. In the meantime, The Dr. Oz show has lost half its viewers over the past five years and some of its credibility.
After the contentious and somewhat humbling takedown by some of his colleagues, Oz is trying to retool his television show, espousing a mantra of “Heal Thyself.” He has sought feedback from doctors in various specialties to get advice on how to recast his message, which was moderately successful.
“We’re on the same team of trying to make people healthier, which I think everyone can agree is the case, even if you disagree with how I do it, even if you don’t like the entertainment aspect of it,” Oz said. “I get all that.”
One of the problems with his success was that Oz had become a lightening rod for reaction against progressive approaches to health care that many doctors feel threatened by. Patients today are much more informed in terms of diseases and treatments and often visit a physician after consulting with WebMD or other medical information sites online or getting advice from a popular televised medical expert. That’s a situation that can impair a traditional physician-patient relationship, and Oz said he understands how annoying that can be.
This season is important for Oz to determine his long-term viability, according to Bill Carroll, an expert on the syndication market for the Katz Television Group, and show’s switch from ABC to lower-profile Fox affiliates in several markets, and the cutting of broadcasts cutting to once a day has impacted ratings.
“The uniqueness he brought to the audience is no longer unique. It has become a little more routine.” Carroll said. “He’s the hardest working guy in television but there comes a point where you have to reinvent yourself and I think that’s what they are going to attempt to do this year.”
The producers of the Dr. Oz show have detailed a number of new topics that will be addressed on the new season. “The Healthy Mind Project” will examine many areas of mental health, addiction and happiness. He wants to help viewers understand the tremendous amount of information available to them and, in keeping with the theme of “Heal Thyself,” understand enough about their own physiology and psychology to use the information to their best advantage.
That may not win him any fans in the medical community, who will likely see this as a threat to their authority in medical expertise, but it may endear Dr. Oz to a new generation of viewers and fans who choose to take control of their own health and decide that they have the ability to heal themselves through positive self-regard, mindfulness and meditation, going to the source of the problems, instead of looking for ways to constantly medicate the symptoms.
Producers say they also intend to add depth to the show. “The Dr. Oz Show” has typically introduced new topics after each commercial break, and now the programming will give certain topics more time if needed. This is designed to address viewers who are telling him they want to spend more time with their television doctor, to “hold my hand, metaphorically speaking,” Oz said. The mind is the master of everything you attract into your life and your way of thinking has much more to do with your health and well-being than you might realize just yet.
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