Dr. Mehmet Oz: Global MedicineSeptember 2008
By Sue Kovach
Dr. Oz has coined the term global medicine to describe this blending of Western and non-Western methods of healing—two things he believes do not have to be mutually exclusive. He holds these complementary therapies, some new and some very old, to the same standards as he does Western techniques, and will only use what he sees is working for the patient.
“If we are to achieve maximum healing, we should use any tool at our disposal—including non-scientific approaches—provided there is evidence that they do no harm to the patients,” he says.
Maintaining his strong confidence in science, Dr. Oz feels that the standard belief that medicine offers all the solutions has caused patients to give up the proactive role they should be playing in their own health care. Reclaiming that proactive role has become his powerful and enabling message to the public, and he is clearly excited about delivering that message to millions through his books and TV appearances.
This public education aspect of his career began when the news media discovered he was “a good interview.” Reporters often visit the Columbia University medical school when covering medical stories, and calls to Dr. Oz became more frequent. Increased exposure as a subject matter expert led to even more demand for Dr. Oz, and his audience grew tremendously when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show, appearances that eventually led to regular health and wellness segments.
Dr. Oz seems custom-made for television. He engages the audience with his fascination with the possibilities of both traditional and complementary medicine. Listening to him, you want to lose weight, you want to eat better, and live longer. But by educating people in this way, he is helping to open channels of communication between patients and their doctors so that patients are further empowered to become more involved in their own health destinies.
Dr. Oz has become a ubiquitous presence on the internet and has also written several enormously popular books. His breakthrough 1999 book, Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the Future, recalls his own experiences as a heart surgeon, his evolution into integrative medicine, and patient success stories. He went on to create the “You” series of books (co-authored with Dr. Michael Roizen), such as the best-selling You: The Owner’s Manual, You: On a Diet, and You: The Smart Patient, written to provide people with the information they need to take control of their own health and become comfortable doing so. His newest book in the series could be the most exciting yet. You: Staying Young, The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty brings the field of anti-aging medicine front and center (see sidebar below).
“I think there’s a disconnect between people and their own bodies, an information gap,” he says. “No one ever said to them, ‘Here’s what’s going on with your body.’ And if they’re not ready to hear it in the way they want to hear it, that can be scary. America has a lot of health issues we’re not dealing with, but people need to realize they have a lot of control over this process. They can learn things on their own and be savvy users of the health care system. The problem has been that for most people, authentic information can be really hard to get. But I want to make everyone a smart user of health care and to make sure that everyone’s getting the best care because both doctor and patient are asking the right questions.”
Dr. Oz encourages people to be prepared for their doctor appointments by developing their personal health profile, a summary of their health issues and history that includes family history, and to be prepared to discuss critical topics. He advises people to learn as much as they can from as many sources as they can, and cites Life Extension magazine as “a good resource that’s full of practical information and articles about supplements that I often find useful.”
“Most patients don’t do a great job of communicating with their doctors because patients often give us docs too little pertinent information to go on—and remember, just like a detective, we’re looking for the facts,” says Dr. Oz. “At the same time, they may also give us too many distracting or off-topic details. The first sign of a Smart Patient is that telltale document, the personal health profile that they produce during their first visit, or even their 50th. This is the sign of a patient who means business, one who will challenge us to be at our absolute best, and who won’t waste time and money on redundant and unnecessary efforts.”
Between his practice, teaching, writing books, and making media appearances, it is tempting to conclude that Dr. Oz is a man who probably doesn’t sleep much. The love of his profession and his passion for his message keep him going in all these areas. He strongly believes that we can turn around the health problems facing the nation today if people will simply take charge of their own health destiny again.
“I’m passionate about the message. I believe that all health care is personal, and we have to get Americans to do it for themselves,” he says. “The ultimate solution to the health care problem in our country will only be found through empowering individuals to take better care of themselves. It won’t happen otherwise. We can try to delegate healthcare from Washington, DC, but the only way to get healthy is for individuals to take responsibility to do it on their own.” With Dr. Oz’s help, we are certainly on the way to doing so.