Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia, noted author of multiple best-selling books, as well as guest on the Oprah, who dubbed him "America's Doctor" has his own television show.
And not a moment too soon.
His focus has been educating the public in preventive health and wellness. With Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, founder of Real Age, as well as co-author with Dr. Oz, they have made getting healthy a mission. In a country where obesity is unfortunately becoming the norm rather than the exception and where everyone seems to expect solutions for illness and stress to come from the outside through medical interventions and medications rather than from within, Dr. Oz's insight via his guest appearances on Oprah, his radio show on XM, as well as the many articles he pens, provides a major breath of fresh air.
The boring and unsexy stuff of exercising, eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as focus on mental wellness really works. In a frantic world with 24/7 news cycles and instant gratification, this perspective is sorely needed particularly in our country where we are the unhappiest and certainly one of the unhealthiest among industrialized countries.
Dr. Oz is frankly brilliant. Not only did he graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as well as the Wharton School of Business, (of which yours truly is an alumnus), but also Dr. Oz holds a number of patents, practices and preaches the power of complementary medicine, and makes any medical topic understandable, entertaining, and memorable to the general public. As a practicing primary care doctor, I'm amazed how effortlessly he makes the complex simple. It's a sign of a true mastery of the variety of subjects he comments one and a skill that only the best teachers and professors possess.
His stage presence will make the show ultimately successful as he tackles what a potentially ho-hum topic, preventive health. Our society that favors 30 second soundbites and sensationalism and rewards media for providing this. Yet, we know in medicine that prevention works. Unfortunately no one in this country pays for this kind of intervention or advice. Medical students are flocking to specialties like dermatology, ophthalmology, anethesiology, and radiology for these reasons and shunning primary care specialties like internal medicine and family medicine. Our healthcare system reimburses for fixing problems not for preventing them. His zen-like calm, candor, and thoughfulness, as well as his ability to not be shy or embarrassed about even the most sensitive topics will make his show a mainstay of many households.
Despite this traits, however, Dr. Oz, still a significant uphill battle in making Americans healthier and better stewards for their well-being. The food industry has make what we eat more tasty, convenient, and less healthful than the foods generations ago once had. Households are stressed more than ever with higher expectations and perceived needs to keep up with the Jones as well as a fear that the American dream is being lost to other countries and foreigners who seem to work even harder for less. Children seem to stripped of childhood sooner and regimented into programs early in life so they can get ahead. Can Dr. Oz make his message heard?
A sign of a good doctor and one aspect I particularly like about him is that he will call people out. Honest, but tough. In one show, he admonished someone for not purchasing health insurance. Sure it is increasingly unaffordable and the nation must reform the healthcare system, but Dr. Oz's point was that the individual chose to spend money on plenty of other things that were not essential. Health is important and something too many of us take for granted until something happens. Dr. Oz has and continues to demonstrate that there are many things we can do to maximize our chances to stay healthy or even improve health.
Although I think he's great, I don't always agree with what Dr. Oz has to say. It's probably because he is so smart that what he touts won't been known for decades to come and that individuals like myself can't see that far ahead. (I truly believe that to be a good possibility). For example, on a previous Oprah show he had recommended that people get a testing for biochemical markers to help them determine their health. Cost? About two thousand dollars! Scientific evidence? None that I know of. Yet, Dr. Oz felt that this was important for people to have it done and Oprah recommended it as well. As a result, I suspect quite a few people spent some serious money for blood work. (A nice treadmill and a couple pair of sneakers could probably have a better health benefit for the same price). He may know more than the rest of us, so give him the benefit of the doubt, but with a little skepticism at times. I hope as he gets people to work on being healthier he balances that with the reality of increasing financial hardship. If people need to spend a lot of money to get healthier, then many will be left out.
Nevertheless, the nation needs a doctor who will speak up, make preventive health fun, entertaining, and memorable. As he noted in an article with the Associated Press:
"I found myself going to work and taking care of people who wanted to get better who believed that their only path to salvation was through my scalpel," he said. "I can heal with steel. I know how to do that. But it's very disenfranchising when you realize the true solutions are outside the operating room."
Yes, the solutions to America's healthcare system crisis is in preventive health and should be in the hands of individuals and families. Can Dr. Oz alter the perception in this country that more is better? Can he show that answer to good health isn't more imaging tests, blood work, medications, and surgeries, but the unsexy stuff that not enough of us do like eat healthy foods and stay physically and mentally active? Perhaps Dr. Oz can inspire a generation of Americans to take care of their health and a generation of medical students to commit to the primary care specialties. With a healthcare system in crisis and the current generation of children expected to be the first not to live as long as the generation before, what this country needs is a hero and a leader who boldly and wisely can get the message out that preventive health is important, cool, and most importantly accessible to all who wish to try.
I for one hopes he succeeds and suspect he will do so as he has proven time and time again brillantly.