A letter to Dr. Oz for his inbox

dr oz

Dear Dr. Oz,

I know the #OzsInBox question on Twitter didn’t exactly go the way you or your social media team expected.You told Sen. McCaskill when she asked you about the so-called miracles and medically baseless products that you promote on your show that you view yourself as a cheerleader, but consider #OzsInBox a wake-up call that doctors (or at least the ones who don’t want to appear on your show to hawk a product) and a lot of other people think you are cheering for the wrong team.

It’s quite possible that you don’t care about all the push back from health care professionals, journalists, the government, and the public. After all you won an Emmy, have a successful show, and are probably quite literally laughing all the way to the bank. So if being Oz the brand instead of Oz the physician is all that matters to you then stop reading now.

You have an amazing platform. I hear from patients all the time: “But it’s Dr. Oz approved.” But I just sigh knowing that the product or cleanse or diet that you recommended can’t possibly help them (but they paid $29.99 and delayed the evidence-based alternative waiting for it to work). Every week I tell two or three women that it is fine to have bread or a slice of cake (in moderation, like everything else). I see women who haven’t had a slice of bread or a piece of chocolate in three years and obviously it hasn’t helped them with their chronic condition because they are seeing me. You know what they do when I tell them when they can have a sandwich or dessert? They cry. Not just because they are so happy they can now have something they enjoy, but because they devoted so much energy to what can only be described as a wild goose chase and they feel duped.

I know you think you are using “flowery language,” but a lot of the products, diets, and people you promote on your show are perceived by every single health care professional not interested in appearing on your show as the antithesis of medical care. Don’t get me wrong passion is great, but beliefs without science are religion and you’re a doctor not a high priest.

In case you do care about the health of the nation instead of running an elaborate medical sideshow here are 10 real suggestions for your “inbox.” You’re a great communicator so while your producers might think this list isn’t miraculous enough for daytime TV, I bet you could prove them wrong.


Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM

1. An evidence based show about vaccines. You could tour a manufacturing facility to prove there are no hidden dangerous secret ingredients. Guests could include Peter Salk (son of the Jonas Salk who in invented the polio vaccine), a survivor of the polio epidemic, a parent whose child has recently suffered from what is now a vaccine preventable disease, a scientist who has studied vaccine safety, and a journalist who has written credibly on vaccines. Seriously, this kind of show would build a lot of bridges with the medical community and a big mea culpa would get you tons of press. The only vaccine controversy is why you wouldn’t devote show after show to vaccine safety and systemically disprove the myths promoted by people like Mercola (see below).

2. Stop having Joe Mercola on your show. Did you know he promotes tanning beds? (In addition to a host of other very unproven and biologically implausible ideas … and he conveniently sells most of those products!) And also ditch the Food Babe. She has been discredited by numerous food scientists. Having these people on isn’t “controversial” or presenting “the other side,” it gives an air of credibility to people who are promoting dangerous and incorrect ideas. Manufacturing controversy may make for good TV, but it is bad medical care.

3. Please don’t use the word miracle. Ever. It lends false credence to the idea that losing weight is easy and due to some external force not under our control (weight loss is the thing you most associate with medical miracles, I believe you have mentioned at least 16). There are no medical miracles, just undiscovered science and lies.

4. Do a show about the National Weight Loss Registry. It is a longitudinal survey of people who have successfully lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off (spoiler alert — it involves cutting calories for weight loss and exercise for maintenance). I’m a member (I have maintained a 50 pound weight loss for 3 years). I was at a lecture on weight loss several years ago and when the expert spoke about the weight loss registry something clicked for me, “If they could do it, so could I.” A passionate discussion about it on your show might motivate others just like it motivated me. I also think it would be really good to hear stories from people who have been in the registry for years and to hear from the scientists who run it.

5. Do a weekly journal club. Pick an interesting article in a major journal and invite one or two of the authors and a couple of experts to discuss. The next mammography article that comes up would be a good idea because there is so much back and forth it’s hard to keep straight (just make sure you discuss how many women need screening to pick up a cancer and the fall out of false positives).

Between JAMA, NEJM, BMJ,Lancet, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Annals of Internal Medicine there is something worth talking about that applies to a lot of people at least once a week.

6. Stop making gluten and sugar your bitches. They are not the root of all evil. People with celiac disease shouldn’t eat gluten, but that’s 1 to 2 percent of the population. If you want food that is universally bad and shouldn’t be eaten at all, pick trans fats! You’re a heart surgeon — you know what they can do. I’d be the first signature on any petition to get them banned. But gluten. Really? Have you ever been to France? They eat tons of gluten and outlive us in America. Gluten and sugar aren’t killing us, it’s over consumption of high calorie, low nutritional value food that is doing us in. Pass the croissants, but just one.

7. Do not use the word toxin unless you are talking about a toxin. (In case you have forgotten toxins are poisonous substances produced by microorganisms, plants, or animals.) The same goes for detoxify and it’s corollary, cleanse. These words are meaningless and nothing makes an evidence-loving doctor see red faster than medical terms used inaccurately. It is aggravating day after day to explain to people who have watched your show that your liver and kidneys metabolize and remove waste products and hence lemon juice diets and colonics are not only a waste of time and money, but potentially harmful.

8. Do a show about the impact of the Supreme Court decision on the contraception mandate. This is very important, because beliefs are not medical facts. (I know I’m being repetitive but this idea matters, it’s kind of like legislating that supplements are good even though no study shows that they do anything except make expensive pee.) But back to contraception, if I write about IUDs I reach several thousand people, but you reach hundreds of thousands. We don’t use IUDs enough in this country and you could help change that.

9. Talk about domestic violence. Mention it here and there. Often. How many women (and men, but I guess your demographic mostly skews female) do you think are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship? Right. I know there is no domestic violence product or quasi-professional book to pitch, but I bet if you spoke about DV regularly some of your viewers might become empowered enough to see their situation and make a change.

10. Rethink using psychics on your show. Psychic isn’t short for psychiatry or psychologist, so no, psychics are not the new therapists. And if John Edward was such an amazing psychic wouldn’t he have warned his good buddy not to ask questions on Twitter?

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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