Sunday, April 26, 2015

Purported Medical Wizard of Oz

This month, 10 “Distinguished Physicians, “ fired off a letter to the Dean of Columbia Medical School, asking him to oust Mehmet Oz, M.D., a 54 year old Turkish-American cardiovascular surgeon, author, and principal of the Dr. Oz television show from the Columbia faculty.

The physicians portrayed Dr. Oz as a modern day Wizard of Oz, a quack and a fraud, a deserter from the medical scientific ranks.

But as an Op-Ed New York Times piece of April 26, 2015, says in a headline, “Dr. Oz Is No Wizard, But No Quack, Either”.

Oz is a tenured professor and co-chairman of Columbia University’s department of surgery and director of Columbia’s Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medical Program.

In his TV show, since 2004, he has spoken openly, often, and sometimes inaccurately aboutnon-scientific controversial subjects such as homeopathy, faith healing, naturopathy, acupuncture, vaccines and autism, genetically modified foods, and a host of health and wellness products – health foods, dietary supplements, low testosterone therapies, probiotics, fruits and vegetables in pill form, antioxidants, herbs, home remedies , and sensitive sensitive things bowel movements, menopause, and body fat.

This dual role has landed him in scientific hot water. The British Medical Journal has reported that only 33% of 80 of his recommendations stand up under scientific scrutiny and are “believable.” This kind of negative publicity prompted the leaeder among 10 well-known physicians to write the following public letter to the dean of Columbia medical school.

“I am writing to you on behalf of myself and the undersigned colleagues below, all of whom are distinguished physicians.”

“We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.”

“As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

“Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgments about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.”

Dropping Doctor Oz from the faculty will be had to do.

1. According to the first amendment, he has the right of free speech.

2. He says he has never received any reimbursement for endorsing or promoting a product.

3. He is the best known physician in America because of his syndicated television program.

4. He is a tenured professor of surgery , which means he would be difficult to fire.

5. While a resident at Columbia , he was the four-time winner of the prestigious Blakemore research prize, which went to the most outstanding surgery resident. He has 11 patents for inventing methods and devices involved in heart surgeries and transplants. This includes helping to research and develop the left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which helps keep people alive while they’re awaiting a heart transplant. Oz had a hand in turning the hospital’s LVAD program into one of the biggest and most active in the world.

6. More than 50% of Americans use products or treatments of CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine), which is $34 billion dollar industry. Many prestigious organizations like the Mayo Clinic deem CAM worthy of serious scientific discussion, and many University medial centers have established “Integrative" medical centers , e.g. using acupuncture and meditation techniques to supplement scientific medicine.

Given these facts and factors, it is hard to dismiss Dr. Oz as a “”quack,”defined as a fraudulent or ignorant pretender to medical skill. He may be injudicious and should strive to be more guarded in promoting or evaluating products that have not gone through double-blind and controlled scientific trials, but with the vast array of products available that would be impractical. Perhaps he should cut back on his free-wheeling and engaging personal style, but that is what appeals to millions of TV watchers.

Dr. Oz is not ignorant, nor is he a fraud. He received an undergraduate degree from Harvard and his MD and MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. His views may not pass the scientific "smell test", but he knows what the public wants to know about alternative, complementary, and integrative products, approaches, and techniques. Oz claims discussing the boundaries of conventional vs. alternative care are better coming from a physician than elsewhere. During the 10 years of his TV program, he has made a fortune, but by doing so has "suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"(Hamlet) from the physician establishment.

One hundred and fifteen years after Frank Baum published his epic book The Wizard of Os in 1900 about a charlatan hiding behind a curtain. According to some physicians, Oz is supposedly a modeern Wizard of Oz who has emerged to lead people down another yellow brick road. This road may turn into a blind alley. There is room beyond peer reviewed journals and scientific proof to discuss alternative health issues that are not scientifically proven but widely used and sought after among Americans.

1 comment:

Eapen Chacko said...

I first saw Dr.Oz at an alumni presentation on health for the 250th anniversary of Columbia College. I didn't know he was a physician on the Oprah Show, and it was before he began the Discovery Health show, the subject of this kerfuffle.
He gave an absolutely compelling, informative and accessible presentation to a full house on how to "keep yourself off my sugery table." I went to see him because he was a vascular surgeon and department head at the Columbia University School of Physicians & Surgeons. Were he a quack, a scientific ignoramus, or a fraud, I don't know if he could hold this position.
His critics need to have their motives critically examined; they are a mixed bag in terms of their own creds. If they believe he shouldn't have tenure, that is a faculty/university decision about which there are established procedures. Going to the press about this issue is a violation of their own professional obligations.
The biggest accusation I heard on a video was that he had made critiques of adopting GMO crops, the benefits and safety of which are established and incontrovertible. This is a ludicrous and unscientific statement itself. We don't know this for sure: it's way too early. Even more, there are costs associated with GMO's and transfers of wealth away from small farmers and to giants like Monsanto whose claims to patent 'basmati rice" and sue Indian farmers shows that this is not about science, but about money. If Dr. Oz objects, as you say, he is certainly free to do so as a citizen, consumer, and especially as a medical doctor, scientist and tenured professor under the academic freedom umbrella.
I believe that the Dr. Oz I see today is not man I met and spoke to outside of Wollman Auditorium in 2004. He has more of the characteristics of a carnival barker. I don't know what is going on with him personally or professionally, but what I think doesn't matter, because I exercise my freedom by not watching his show.
Nothing that these morons say, and the callow, self-serving way they have expressed their vies should allow them to levy charges like this and make these demands. At the end of the day, I think Dr. Oz's crime is that he has become a celebrity. In this respect, he is no different that Dr. Phil (also an Oprah alumn), Judge Judie or other media stars.