Dr. Oz responds after prominent physicians call for his firing from Columbia University
By Elahe Izadi April 18
You know Dr. Oz. He has a popular show where he dishes medical advice, some of which has earned him criticism. But he's not just a television host: Dr. Mehmet Oz is also a cardiothoracic surgeon who holds the surgery department vice chairmanship at Columbia University's medical school.
That Columbia affiliation doesn't sit well with some doctors, 10 of whom from various institutions sent a letter to Columbia's dean of medicine, Lee Goldman, calling for Oz's dismissal from the school. His position at "a prestigious medical institution," the doctors wrote, is "unacceptable."
"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," reads the letter.
On Friday, Oz defended himself.
"I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves," Oz said in a statement, according to USA Today. The newspaper reported that the statement was released by a "Dr. Oz Show" representative. "We provide multiple points of view, including mine, which is offered without conflict of interest," the statement continued. "That doesn't sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts."
Oz has come under intense scrutiny -- including a congressional grilling -- for pitching questionable weight loss schemes and other medical guidance. As The Post's Abby Phillip wrote last year:
Oz has done a lot to damage his credibility as a medical doctor over the years. He came under fire for touting "miracle" weight-loss products that turned out to be entirely discredited; for announcing that his own children wouldn't be vaccinated (which he blamed on his wife's insistence); and for suggesting on national TV that the Ebola virus could become airborne.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
In the letter to Columbia's Goldman, sent via e-mail this week by Dr. Henry I. Miller of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, the doctors refer to Oz warning his viewers about arsenic in certain apple juice brands and other stances he has taken.
"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," the letter states. "Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain."
Representatives from "The Dr. Oz Show" initially referred The Post to Columbia's office of communications.
Columbia University Medical Center spokesman Doug Levy wrote in a response to Miller and the others: "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."
Miller responded to Levy that "freedoms end where patient safety begins, and Oz's promotion of worthless products that might have side effects and that delay patients' seeking safe and effective therapies threatens public safety."
Oz is also a Columbia University professor of surgery and directs the New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program.
The physicians' letter to Columbia also took issue with Oz's "baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops."
In his statement, USA Today reported, Oz responded:
"I do not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but believe that they should be labeled like they are in most countries around the world."
He added: "I will address this on the show next week."
Here is the whole text of the letter. Two additional New York doctors also wanted to sign after the letter was sent, Miller said:
Lee Goldman, M.D.
￼Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine Columbia University
Dear Dr. Goldman:
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 [sic] 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.
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy & Public Policy
Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow Hoover Institution
Jack Fisher, M.D.
Professor of Surgery (emeritus)
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA
Shelley Fleet, M.D.
Gordon N. Gill, M.D.
Dean (emeritus) of Translational Medicine University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA
Michael H. Mellon, M.D.
San Diego, CA
Gilbert Ross, M.D.
President (Acting) and Executive Director American Council on Science and Health
New York, NY
Samuel Schneider, M.D.
Glenn Swogger Jr. M.D.
Director of the Will Menninger Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences (retired)
The Menninger Foundation
Joel E. Tepper, M.D.
Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research Dept of Radiation Oncology
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Chapel Hill, NC
[This post, originally published on April 16, has been updated.]￼
Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post.￼￼