The New Sun

An Interview with Dr. Oz

  Listen (12 seconds)

Lese Dunton: When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

Mehmet Oz: I tried to outline a little bit of this in the book, but it's a change that occurs over an undefined period of one's life. My father's a physician. That always had an impact. A shoemaker's son always at least considers becoming a shoemaker.

In addition, I was always concerned that I might go through life and not understand the fundamentals of life. The reason why I was here, a deeper search for my raison d' etre.

Medicine is a particularly compelling way of identifying why you're here, not just philosophically but physically; how do we exist? How does my heart beat? What makes my lungs work? Without understanding those underpinnings, I felt that I would be a very frustrated human being.

So that, in probably the most direct sense, is why I wanted to be a doctor.

It is also true that I love studying science. I always have. It's a vocation which energizes me, particularly in the research aspects of it. And I love dealing with people who are different — from me and from each other. That is also one of the aspects of medicine.

LD: What are the goals for the Center?

MO: The goals for the center are in two parallel paths. The research endeavor, which is the process that I take most charge of. It's an attempt to translate what's going on in alternative and complementary medicine into a language that's acceptable not just to physicians but Western culture.

So, take mind/body issues and make them accessible to the average American, or Westerner who has very dichotomous view — a separation of mind and body view — of our existence.

Paralleling this research endeavor is the clinical portion of the enterprise, which is actually used to practice these theories. This is another thing about medicine. You don't just talk about theoretical reasons why, you don't just say, "It would be nice if this organ worked that way." You actually have to practice the art of medicine. That's what the clinical side of our project will accomplish. It will actually deliver services to individuals who are in need. And by looking at the outcomes of those services, we'll figure out which ones work best for which patients.

LD: What have you learned from going to China and Thailand?

MO: One thing I learned, in particular in China, was a deeper understanding of what it really means to integrate medicine.

The traditional Chinese medicine, based primarily in energy modalities with use of herbs and mind/body techniques to achieve those goals, has merged in that country with Western doctrine. It's classically demonstrated in one of their largest hospitals that I visited and operated in.

When you walked in, if you turned left you went to the Western side, and if you turned right you went to the Eastern side. The patients that entered that portal had an opportunity to go in either direction, and were directed, actually, to one direction or the other, by their illness. Chronic illnesses went to the Eastern modalities because they dealt with them better, actually. Acute illnesses went to the Western modalities because they felt they were more amenable to those treatments.

So, this is an example of how I feel we could practice medicine. Identify which medicine works best for which people and follow up along those lines. In Thailand, interestingly, it's a mix between the Chinese and Ayervedic techniques. It's a good demonstration of the practice of medical traditions for individual people. They took different theories and then brought it and made it amenable and applicable to their population. We need to do the same. To individualize our medical therapies.

The Thai use a lot of massage. It appeals to them. It's easy to do, it's cheap, it seems to work. They use herbs but a much more complex mix than the Chinese use, for example. It's a hybrid system. What we need is to adopt more in this country I think.

LD: I like your use of sports metaphors to help patients understand.

MO: I use sports metaphors frequently for two reasons. One, and probably more importantly, because they appeal to me. I came about my interest in the mind and its role in the body through sports. I played sports my whole life at a very competitive level and I always found that when my mind was in tune with the goals that I had, my body performed accordingly. This is not novel, this is well reported, but we all find this in different ways. Some of us do music, some through writing, some through sports. There are many different ways. That was my portal of entry into this flow world, this flow state. For that reason, I often use those analogies in my own mind, so I explain it best that way.

In addition, I mentioned earlier part of our goal is to translate that "division" we have to the average Western-cultured individual and sports is a particular amenable analogy for us. That is the major mechanism by which most people come about an understanding of the role of the mind over the body. These are talked about on t.v. all the time, on sports channels, "The momentum has shifted, he's really calm, he's focused." These are the things we talk about all the time and we don't reduce to practice frequently.

This football coach, Joe Luciano, that I mentioned in the book is a classic example. He's a motivated, smart guy who can get where he needs to go in his day to day life, but is ignoring his body. His body is just his life support system. He doesn't think about it as an active, changing, ever-evolving part of his existence. When I finally got through to him that it was just like a sports game, it clicked. Once it clicked, now he saw it. He didn't have to have the crutch of sports to lean on anymore. He could move past that, transcend that, to a deeper understanding.

LD: Where do you get your auditory tapes for patients?

MO: I've had people make tapes for me. Once actually, from a family of a patient who was here. But generally, we buy those tapes from companies that have been involved in academic endeavors. The tapes that we made for our studies, we made ourselves. Actually, Jery Whitworth went up and recorded most of it because he does hypnotherapy. Then we took music that we had polled patients about — to see which ones they liked and didn't like. A medical student had helped us with that a little bit. And he made a tape up that was a study tape, together with a psychologist team and with our anesthesiologist. So that was a multidisaplinary endeavor. Those are things we use to study patients. The ones that are part of the trials. It changes periodically because we study different things.

The ones that we use commercially that we sell to patients — they say, "We don't want to be part of study I just want to get the tapes so I can listen to my music" — we either allow them to bring their own tapes, or we give them tapes that we've purchased from a group in Virginia. They have new age music, undertones.

There's a voice that tells you to be calm, relax, have confidence, and trust your doctor, etc. There are tapes that are made by a Cleveland clinic, one of their nurses. All of these are made by relatively small organizations. They're just trying to figure out what works. We have a whole collection of them. We tend to favor one or two because they're easier to use for us. They have a pre-operative, operative, and post-operative component. Again, our focus is on the research of these, rather than the tapes themselves.

* * *

Copyright © 1999 The New Sun.

Dr. Oz's websites: and