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.