When celebrities get sick, it not only makes headlines—it creates a chance for us to learn about our own health. Dr. Oz welcomes Dr. Barron Lerner, best-selling author of When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine, to talk about the relationship between celebrities and medicine in society.
When stars get sick, Dr. Lerner says others suffering from the same affliction may draw inspiration from their stories or seek out new treatments. "It's compelling to people because people have an amazing connection with celebrities in this country," he says. "It's not surprising that if you're interested in celebrity gossip and you're interested in what celebrities are doing in their lives, at the same time when a celebrity becomes sick, there's a connection for people."
According to Dr. Lerner, celebrities have served a dual role over time when it comes to informing the public about certain illnesses. On the one hand, Dr. Lerner says there's the drawback that some people may assume that their case will be identical to a celebrity suffering from the same condition. "There's an assumption that if you just do what that celebrity does, that's the right thing to do. … So there's a bit of a danger there," he says.
Dr. Lerner says that, overall, celebrities have done a remarkably good job of getting a variety of issues in front of the public. "The fact is that the media will pay attention when it's Betty Ford who gets breast cancer instead of Betty Smith, or Michael J. Fox has Parkinson's instead of someone else," he says.