The Slatest

Letter From Prominent Doctors Implies Columbia Should Fire Dr. Oz for Being a Quack

Dr. Oz at a 2010 charity walk in New York with, from left, Elizabeth Banks, Tracy Chapman, Mary J. Blige, Oprah, and Jennifer Hudson.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

A group of doctors from institutions including Stanford and the University of North Carolina have written a letter to Columbia University asserting that heart surgeon and TV personality Mehmet Oz’s appointment on the Columbia medical faculty is “unacceptable.” The letter (citing a Slate article co-written by one of the co-authors) asserts that Oz “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

Responded a Columbia spokesman: “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.”


Oz, who has a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, appearing first in 2004. He’s had his own syndicated show since 2009. You can read much more on his dubious medical recommendations here on Slate and in this New Yorker article, which sums up his approach thusly:


Oz is an experienced surgeon, yet almost daily he employs words that serious scientists shun, like “startling,” “breakthrough,” “radical,” “revolutionary,” and “miracle.” There are miracle drinks and miracle meal plans and miracles to stop aging and miracles to fight fat.

Oz defends himself, sort of, in the New Yorker piece, telling its author that he sees his job as one of listening to layperson patients and presenting them with all possible options, even though those options often aren’t supported by data. “I would take us all back a thousand years,” he says, “when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation.”


For even further reading, see this blog post by an Oz-skeptic doctor who’s also critical of some of the institutions that the doctors who wrote the letter to Columbia are associated with.


The full letter, via Vox:

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 judgements 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.


Sincerely yours,
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy & Public Policy
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Jack Fisher, M.D.
Professor of Surgery (emeritus)
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Shelley Fleet, M.D.
Longwood, FL

Gordon N. Gill, M.D.
Dean (emeritus) of Translational Medicine
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Michael H. Mellon, M.D.
Pediatric Allergist
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.
Princeton, NJ

Glenn Swogger Jr. M.D.
Director of the Will Menninger Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences (retired)
The Menninger Foundation
Topeka, KS

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