Physician and author
Born June 11, 1960, in Cleveland, OH; son of Mustafa (a cardiothoracic surgeon) and Suna Atabay (a physician and director of a pharmaceutical company) Oz; married Lisa Lemole (an actress and film and television producer); children: Daphne, Arabella, Zoe, Oliver. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1982; University of Pennsylvania, M.D., M.B.A., 1986.
Addresses: Home —Cliffside Park, NJ. Office —New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, Milstein Hospital Bldg., Room 7 GN 435, 177 Fort Washington Ave., New York, NY 10032.
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, NY, chief resident of general surgery, 1990–91, cardiothoracic surgery resident, 1991–93; attending surgeon, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, 1993–, director, Cardiovascular Institute, 2001–, vice chairman of cardiovascular services, 2001–; professor of surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, New York, NY, 2001–; Discovery Health Channel, host of series Second Opinion with Doctor Oz , 2003–, and senior medical consultant; host of show for Oprah & Friends channel on XM satellite radio, 2005–; contributor to Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post .
New York City heart surgeon Mehmet Oz has become one of America's best-known doctors thanks to his frequent media appearances and best-selling book, You: The Owner's Manual . The 2005 tome, written with fellow physician Michael F. Roizen, condenses the advice Oz has given to scores of patients over the course of his career—that modern medicine can only do so much, and one's health and well-being requires a share of self-motivation, too. His longtime employer, Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, was the site of former U.S. President Bill Clinton's quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, and Oz likes to point out that even a man as carefully monitored as Clinton was not immune from danger. "He's as well tested as you can be," Oz told New York Times journalist Dwight Garner. "You cannot test for safety. You've got to live to be safe."
Oz was born in 1960 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Turkish parents who were both physicians. His father, Mustafa, rose to become chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Wilmington Medical Center in Delaware, where Oz grew up; his mother, Suna, would later head a family owned pharmaceutical company back in Istanbul, Turkey's capital. The family made periodic visits to relatives there, and on one such vacation, the nine-year-old Oz recalled seeing a magazine photo-essay about the first 12 people who had received heart transplants in the world, all of whom died. Reading about this historic breakthrough in life-saving surgery, Oz decided then that he wanted to become a heart surgeon, too.
After graduating from Harvard University in 1982, Oz entered the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received both an M.D. degree and an M.B.A. in 1986. During this period he met his future wife, Lisa Lemole, whose father was a well-known Philadelphia heart doctor. Gerald Lemole was a pioneer in heart surgery and postoperative care, and advocated a low-fat diet for his patients that was initially viewed with derision by his colleagues years before it became a commonplace prescription for healthy living. Dr. Lemole's ideas about diet, exercise, and the importance of a positive mental attitude would serve as a profound influence on his future son-in-law.
Some seven years of training in surgery and cardiothoracic medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City were necessary before Oz became an attending surgeon at the same hospital in 1993. He quickly established himself as a heart-transplant specialist, but also excelled in other types of less invasive cardiac surgery. Along the way he authored dozens of research articles for professional journals and patented various devices and methods in the realm of cardiac care. But Oz also realized that a patient's state of mind also played a large role in a successful surgical outcome, and became interested in alternative therapies, such as hands-on healing, guided imagery, and other strategies based on ancient beliefs about the connection between the mind and the body.
In 1995, Oz established the Cardiac Complementary Care Center at Columbia-Presbyterian, and contacted other cardiac surgeons around the country to ask if they would be interested in conducting studies that tracked patients' outcomes when alternative treatment methods were offered alongside standard medical remedies. It was a bold move, for such options had failed to garner much professional enthusiasm among the cardiac-care establishment, and were sometimes even vehemently resisted as simply New Age quackery. "The most they could do is caution me in a brotherly way," Oz said of the professional risk involved in his mission when he spoke with New York Times writer Chip Brown. "I would say to them, 'I know you think this is a little crazy, but I feel we are neglecting our patients in a crucial way.'"
The success stories at Oz's Complementary Care Center were recounted in his first book, 1998's Healing from the Heart: A Leading Heart Surgeon Explores the Power of Complementary Medicine , which was co-authored by his wife, Lisa, and journalist Ron Arias. Three years later, Oz became director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian as well as vice chairman for the hospital's cardiovascular services and a professor of surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. He continued to promote alternative therapies to heart surgery patients at the hospital along with traditional care, and began to find a wider audience for his message. Within a few years he became a regular guest on television-news segments devoted to health issues, and fit in appearances on Dateline NBC, Oprah Winfrey , and CNN in between his busy schedule at Columbia-Presbyterian and the medical school.
In 2003, Oz began hosting a program on cable's Discovery Channel that was the brainchild of his wife. Called Second Opinion with Dr. Oz , the series featured celebrity guests discussing their own health issues, such as Oprah Winfrey and her lifelong struggle to control her weight. The show also featured graphic footage of surgeries over which Oz narrated, in layperson's terms, just how harmful tobacco use or a poor diet could prove to the human body. "We show real anatomy," he told People writer Susan Horsburgh, "not to spook you but because there's no better way to get you to realize what your body is really all about."
Befitting his widespread appeal, Oz is a regular contributor to a pair of magazines with a rather distinct readership, Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post . In 2005 his second book, You: The Owner's Manual , was published. In it, he and co-author Roizen dole out practical tips on how to live a longer, healthier life, such as eliminating bleached-flour products and sugary carbonated beverages from one's diet. Both the hardcover and paperback versions of You spent much of 2005 and 2006 on the best-seller lists.
Oz's oldest daughter, Daphne, even wrote her own health-help guide in 2006, The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works . A Princeton undergraduate majoring in Near Eastern studies, Daphne had been raised in an intensely health-conscious household, but in the book confessed her own struggles in learning how to eat wisely. As for his own health, Oz confessed in an interview that appeared in Organic Style that his busy work schedule was his own scandalously unhealthy secret. "I usually fall asleep in ten seconds, which isn't good," he said. "It means I'm exhausted."
(With Ron Arias and Lisa Oz) Healing from the Heart: A Leading Heart Surgeon Explores the Power of Complementary Medicine , Dutton (New York City), 1998.
(With Michael F. Roizen) You: The Owner's Manual , HarperResource (New York City), 2005.
Esquire , December 2002, p. 170; January 2005, p. 108.
New York Times , July 30, 1995; May 22, 2005; August 31, 2006.
Organic Style , December 2004/January 2005, p. 78.
Palm Beach Post , November 11, 2003, p. 1E.
People , October 27, 2003, p. 109.
Saturday Evening Post , November-December 2004, p. 58.
Time , January 20, 2003, p. 71.