Although he's pioneering new ways of thinking about medical care, Dr. Mehmet Oz, an award-winning heart surgeon with degrees from Harvard, Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania, wasn't always sure medicine was his calling. "As a child I wanted to be either a pro athlete or a heart surgeon," says Turkish-born Dr. Oz. "I failed at the former, so I pursued the latter. In reality, they are scarily similar professions. You have to deliver the goods every day. And no one cares how well you performed yesterday."
Today, Dr. Oz is vice chair of surgery and professor of cardiac surgery at Columbia University. He directs the Cardiovascular Institute and is a founder and director of the Complementary Medicine program at New York Presbyterian Medical Center. He is the author of the book Healing From the Heart and more than 350 other publications. He has appeared on television and has been interviewed in national magazines and newspapers to discuss his success with complementary medicine. He also holds several patents.
His approach incorporates both traditional Western techniques for treating disease and alternative ideas about healthy lifestyle choices that contribute to overall wellness. "My heritage as a Turk allowed me to see the world from different perspectives," he says. "Remember that Istanbul bridges Europe with Asia and Christianity with Islam. We face similar conflicts with simultaneously profound differences and similarities in medicine today."
In his New York practice, Dr. Oz has seen success treating patients; some of them famous celebrities; with Eastern techniques such as acupuncture and yoga, as well as controversial therapies such as hypnosis, music, massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and energy healing. He encourages patients to become partners with their doctors and be the expert when it comes to their health.
The doctor certainly practices what he preaches. He says yoga is an important part of his weekly fitness routine, and anger and stress management are keys to his wellness. His advice for a healthy life emphasizes emotional health and gratitude. "Stay vital and engaged. If you do not have an important reason to stay healthy, then you will get sick," he says.
He uses the example of a tumor to illustrate why simple lifestyle choices like giving back to the community will keep you healthy. "Cancer cells survive by hurting those around them. They suck the chi, or energy, from life. Instead, we need to behave like our immune cells, searching out problem areas and protecting our communities."