Monday, April 20, 2015

Dr. Oz's reputation is far more credible than his critics

Dr. Öz at ServiceNation 2008
Dr. Mahmet Oz
photo credit: Wikipedia)
The latest media feeding frenzy now centers on Dr. Mehmet Oz, a well-known, well-respected cardiothoracic surgeon who made a name for himself when he was first appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show more than a decade ago.

Since then, he has hosted his own show on ABC where he has delved into just about every health issue imaginable, explored even the most private ones, and offered expert medical advice to anyone who was interested.

"There are no embarrassing questions," he would tell his audience, as he urged viewers to share as much information as possible with their own family doctors.

Dr. Oz encouraged viewers to be aware of their own feces for changes in color and consistency in order to ward off diseases such as colon cancer. Oz underwent his own colonoscopy in an effort to assuage the fears of the dreaded test that can detect and potentially prevent early colon cancer.

He has long celebrated patients who have lost weight and encouraged many more to change their diets in favor of more healthy eating habits. He advocates for sexual intercourse as a normal, healthy, activity for adults.

Some of the topics he has broached have been controversial, outside the customary medical parameters.

Oz has been an advocate for traditional medicine to work in conjunction with alternatives. He is an advocate for patients, calling himself, "their cheerleader." He is not just another doctor who touts taking a pill and calling him in the morning.

But it appears he has ruffled a few feathers in the medical community. 

Doctors are not always the driving force behind personal medical decisions that drive health care. Pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry are becoming more entrenched in these decisions. There are millions of dollars at stake by complying with these industries. And, the close ties between business and government is not lost on those in the field. The FDA and USDA for example, drives the food industry, with complete control of the food that is regulated and therefore consumed in this country.

So, it stands to reason that anyone who questions the wisdom of widespread practices would be taken to task. So, while this is not the first time, Oz, who has created in a wrinkle in the system by urging individuals to think about the treatments they are using, has recently come under fire by other doctors closely aligned with the health care industry. They are calling for Dr. Oz to be fired from his faculty position at Columbia University. He is being called a quack and charlatan.

A letter, signed by Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institutional at Stanford University says Oz "endangers patients and is a menace to public health." Miller went on to say that he doesn't believe Dr. Oz should be on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution.

Request denied!

Doug Levy, chief communications officer for Columbia University Medical Center, responded, "As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members' freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion."

He later clarified that the university planned no action against Oz because the university "does not regulate faculty engagement in public discourse."

This is political, pure and simple

From what I can tell, and I don't claim to be an expert, Dr. Oz is an advocate for his patients. He wants what he says he wants, for people to be the best they can be, when it comes to their health and with regard to their health care. 

His biggest critic is Dr. Henry I. Miller, the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the Food and Drug Administration. He is an advocate of genetic engineering of food sources, opposes an FDA mandate to label GMO foods, and has been critical of Dr. Oz's skepticism over the safety of Arctic apples, those that are genetically-modified to prevent them from turning brown after being cut into.

This isn't Miller's first go-around with Dr. Oz. In 2011, he went after Dr. Oz when Dr. Oz did a show that resulted in the identification of identified high levels of arsenic in apple juice. Oz was critical of FDA approval of this known health hazard. Two years later, the FDA proposed a limit for the amount of naturally-occurring arsenic in apple juice. 

Rather than weighing into the debate of the facts presented by these two professionals, all I can speak to is what I've noticed in the years I've watched Dr. Oz's television show. 

I've learned a great deal about coping with my own medical issues. I've been inspired by Dr. Oz's common sense approach to health care. I've learned what signs to look for in determining the severity of potential illnesses. Dr. Oz has offered important advice about the benefit of eating healthy food. I have taken some of his advice and at 63-years old, have never felt better in my life. I understand the benefits of healthy food choices and recognize that you really are what you eat.

Watching Dr. Oz has demystified the medical stigma, which makes it easier to talk to my family doctor about ailments. In short, a trip to the doctor is not so intimidating. I've learned the value of second opinions, prevention and cures, and questioning things I don't understand. I have learned to listen to what my body tells me. 

I see a value in watching an informative television show, especially one that is so enlightening about issues that affect us all every single day. I have no qualms about watching Dr. Oz. and following his advice. 

It is ironic that criticism of Dr. Oz comes from a source that is so obviously has his own conflicts of interest. Dr. Miller is affiliated with the Hoover Institution, which in itself is a right-wing public policy think tank. It doesn't take a scholar to realize that questioning the long-held status quo in the medical field is going to make some waves.

One of the others who signed the letter is Dr. Gilbert Ross, who heads an independent research organization--American Council on Science and Health, (ACSH) that defends fracking, opposed New York's efforts to ban sugary beverages, and supports the use of pesticides such as atrazine and BPA (bisphenol-A), according to Al Jazeera America.

The publication also noted that according to Mother Jones Magazine, donors to ACSH are largely from energy, agriculture, cosmetics, food, soda, chemical, pharmaceutical and tobacco corporations like Monsanto, DowAgro and Syngenta. Read more about Dr. Gilbert Ross, who is a convicted felon who defrauded New York's Medicaid program of approximately $8 million for which he spent 46 months in prison.

I dismiss these critics and I stand with Dr. Oz.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Response to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly

I haven't written updates about the Peotone Airport (South Suburban Airport) for some time. I just couldn't help but respond to an editorial in the Chicago Sun Times by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, entitled "Still Waiting on 3rd Airport" that was touted by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, (SSMMA).

My opposition to the state building a new international airport began in 1987 as part of a small protest outside the IDOT offices on Michigan Avenue. That led to the formation of RURAL, Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land, which I helped get off the ground officially on Aug. 2, 1988. RURAL was the predecessor of the present anti-airport group STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down). 

More than 10 years ago I moved out of the area, so I was no longer confronted with the day-to-day assault of my senses in the form of the deteriorating landscape at the hand of the State of Illinois. Much of the land has been sold or taken by the state through eminent domain scattering the inhabitants of the rural community. Perfectly good homes have been razed, homesteads destroyed. I've kept in touch with some of those who remain, despite communications that continue to break my heart. Even now, with each headline, Facebook post, or random thought, I still find myself annoyed. I said in those early days that this airport will never be built. I'd like to stand behind that premise, although who could predict the lengths the state has and will continue to go to try to get this airport built despite its lack of support and lack of need.

That brings me to the editorial written by U.S. Rep. Kelly. 

She attempts to paint a dismal picture of O'Hare International Airport, which incidentally has recently reclaimed its rank of the #1 busiest airport in the world. At one point it was third. Ms. Kelly, O'Hare is doing just fine, thank you very much. She goes so far as to call domestic hub operations and cargo potential as in a "decline." Oh really!!!

She touted the increased capacity of a new airport as being roughly 100,000 flights per year at a cost of $1 billion. All that tells me is she has bought into without question, the wildly-inflated numbers the state has used since the project was first envisioned in 1985. What they have done is write, revise, write, revise until their numbers are close to acceptable. Then, even though inflated, they build from there. The foundation of the study of this project is faulty, which logically, all else built upon it merely teeters. The state has gone to great lengths to control the study process, so all of it has been bought and paid for by them. They have had ultimate control. Since the beginning, IDOT has used every trick in the book to paint a rosy picture of this project. It just never really stuck. But they are relentless. They will try anything.

Take the new jobs figures Kelly touts--pie-in-the-sky. I hate to tell her, but the jobs figures have always been overstated. Thanks to the late Suhail al Chalabi and his wife Margery, who have long manipulated the numbers. Suhail is gone now. I wonder who the state will get to produce the salable numbers now? 

When an elected official tells you "dollar for dollar, the third airport is a better deal for taxpayers," you better start asking questions. Better yet, you better start electing better officials. Kelly is the replacement for Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is currently finishing his sentence for corruption in a half-way house. He was a big promoter of this airport along with Gov. Pat Quinn, who just lost the election to new Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

Building on projections is not wise. Wouldn't it be better to build on past experience? Look at what the state has already done. Mid-America Airport in downstate Illinois is an example of an airport the state had to build to relieve St. Louis' Lambert Field. Trouble is, Mid-America has no air traffic, no airline tenants, and little hope. It does have funding--from the taxpayers. 

Kelly suggests that it would be smart for American and United Air Lines to reinvest in Illinois to ensure Illinois as a premier aviation hub. Sorry Ms. Kelly, but Illinois is already a premium aviation hub. It is called O'Hare International Airport. Furthermore, American and United Air Lines have already stated their opposition to a new airport near Peotone. Had you been at all informed about this project and its history, you would know that American and United hate the idea of another new airport. So do all the other air lines that have been on the record for decades opposing this project. 

There are far better ways to create jobs for the beleaguered south suburban region of Chicago. An airport 40 miles away is not the answer. The only thing that should be done with the South Suburban Airport is drop it and move on! This project started in 1968. It is about as innovative as transistor radios and 45 rpm records. 

As far as the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, they tout this editorial in their website. "Editorial: South Suburban Airport needed to regain aviation market."  This group has been the lead voice for three decades. At least they are consistent, but isn't that a long time to beat the same dead horse?

More content:
Illinois Airport featured on NBC "Fleecing of America"
Voice of reason

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