Mehmet Oz by Chip Brown

Published July 30, 1995 by The New York Times

J oyce Donadio had arrived at the confluence of paradigms. She was a 49-year-old, diabetic computer operator from Nutley, N. J., with a lifelong smoking habit and a blood-starved left ventricle. The extremity of her condition had been driven home a week earlier by a crashing heart attack. She was wheeled into Operating Room 21 at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center at 7:30 A.M. For the next eight hours her life was in the hands of blue-and-green-gowned nurses, physician-assistants, anesthesiologists and surgeons of various rank and experience who cut veins out of her legs, sawed her sternum in half, spread her ribs and then made way for Dr. Mehmet Oz, probably the most accomplished 35-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in the country. He strode into the arena in his rubber clogs, hands upraised, ready for a sterile towel, latex gloves and the delicate work of securing a future for Donadio’s faltering heart. At the invitation of Oz and his patient, there were two other people on hand in surgical gowns and masks: a second-year medical student named Sallie Smith, stationed at Donadio’s feet, and a 52-year-old healer named Julie Motz, who was standing at Donadio’s head. As volunteers in Oz’s Cardiac Complementary Care Center, they worked for free through the operation, seldom moving except to reposition their hands. As Oz requested sutures and clamps and units of lidocaine, Motz called softly to Smith to move her hands from the small toe of Donadio’s right foot to a point on the sole known as “the bubbling spring.” What they were doing no one else in the operating room knew how to do, or had ever seen done during a coronary bypass, or had ever thought worth doing, even as an experiment. In this ultimate theater of scientific medicine, the women were using their hands as kings once did to treat subjects with scrofula and as Jesus is said to have done and as shamans and mothers and Chinese qi-gong practitioners still do. They were using their hands to run a kind of energy, which science cannot prove exists, into Donadio’s “kidney meridian,” which also may or may not exist. You The Smart Patient by Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and Michael F. Roizen, M.D. E ast does not easily meet West, Especially when East is an unproven form of vitalist healing called energy medicine and West is a high-tech medical center where science is the one true God. Columbia-Presbyterian jealously guards its reputation as one of the top teaching and medical-research facilities in the country. Its doctors may not know exactly why or how an intervention works — the general principles of anesthesia, for example, remain shrouded in the mystery of consciousness itself — but most of the drugs and procedures employed have at least some footing in science, and have been proved safe and effective by quantifiable standards. That’s the kind of test most therapies in the realm of alternative medicine can’t pass. While many therapies seem harmless enough, they are often premised on metaphysical philosophies beyond the scope of science, and their claims of efficacy are supported by testimonials, not controlled studies. All the same, Americans spend an estimated $13.7 billion annually on “unconventional” therapies, from hands-on healing to homeopathy, aromatherapy and biofeedback. This enormous interest seems to be based on the perception that mainstream medicine has become more enamored of fancy machines than of the art of healing and on the inability of scientific medicine to cope with the scourges of the times: heart disease, cancer, AIDS.” “…At Columbia-Presbyterian the presence of hands-on healers in an operating room is only the most dramatic example of a new willingness to venture into the terra incognita of healing. In November 1993 the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University accepted a $750,000 private grant from Richard Rosenthal, a retired utility executive and philanthropist, who, moved by the plight of ailing friends for whom doctors said nothing further could be done, wanted to finance a center to study alternative medicine. “…Many notable doctors from Bernie Siegel to Deepak Chopra had been advocating alternative therapies for years. Dean Ornish’s pioneering program to reverse heart disease through exercise, a vegetarian diet and daily meditation is now so respectable that a dozen insurance companies have embraced it as a viable alternative to bypass surgery. If there were new approaches that might improve the quality of life of cardiac patients, Oz was willing to raise some eyebrows to evaluate them and do what he could to nudge a major medical center in new directions. More than willing — he felt ethically obliged. M ehmet Oz is one of those rare beings who seems incapable of sloth. “He’s doing a heart transplant right now,” his secretary says on the phone, “and he’s got a double-lung transplant waiting, and those are in addition to his two regularly scheduled open hearts, and then at 3 he’s supposed to fly to Boston to deliver a lecture.” So exceptional is Oz’s energy that some of his colleagues use him as a benchmark, correlating their own vitality as a fraction of a “full Mehmet unit.” To see what can be done on a full Mehmet unit, I waited in Oz’s heavily trafficked office for the printer to disgorge his curriculum vitae. It seemed to take the better part of the morning: Harvard graduate, magna cum laude; medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was class chairman and school president and also managed to squeeze in an M.B.A. from Wharton. During his residency at Columbia-Presbyterian he won the prestigious Blakemore research award four times. He holds a patent for a solution that preserves transplant organs and has two more patents pending, including one for an aortic valve that can be implanted without open-heart surgery. He’s contributed chapters to eight books, written 56 abstracts and 135 papers and performs about 250 operations a year. He has three children and lives with his wife, Lisa Lemole, an actress, in New Jersey.” “…It was his wife’s family who piqued his interest in alternative medicine. His father-in-law, Gerald Lemole, was a member of the first heart-transplant team in Texas, but he had also been dubbed “Rock Doc” by Rolling Stone magazine for playing music in the operating room to relax patients. Emily Jane Lemole developed a special low-fat diet for her husband’s cardiac patients; at one point she refused surgery for an inflamed gallbladder, preferring to handle it by modifying her diet. Her kids received penicillin for strep throats, but their bellyaches she treated with herbal tea, their earaches with garlic and olive oil, and for sore muscles, she rubbed their skin with arnica gel, a remedy Oz has found relieves his soreness after marathons. “Most allopathic doctors think practitioners of alternative medicine are all quacks,” Oz says. “They’re not. Often they’re sharp people who think differently about disease.” Some colleagues of his father-in-law said they weren’t going to refer patients if Dr. Lemole was going to put them on low-fat diets. Now low-fat diets are gospel. The viewpoint in the Lemole household also reinforced lessons Oz had learned in Turkey, where families play a much larger role in the recuperation of sick relatives. “Ten years ago in this country, if you wanted a family member to stay in the hospital with a patient there was no way,” Oz says “In Turkey, you’re not allowed to be left alone in the hospital. The nurse teaches the family how to do things, and somebody is always there with the patient.” “…Oz mailed letters to 100 cardiologists, outlining a study of therapies in four areas: diet, meditation and hypnosis, manual therapies like massage and energy medicine of the sort practiced by hands-on healers. “I didn’t feel there was a huge down side,” he recalled. “I felt secure with my colleagues. If I kept doing what I am paid to do, the most they could do is caution me in a brotherly way. I would say to them, ‘I know you think this is a little crazy, but I feel we are neglecting our patients in a crucial way.’ ” For the first study, Oz wanted a project that would be a solid bet. Julie Motz, who was studying for a master’s degree in public health and had been volunteering at the Rosenthal center, suggested a list of possible experiments, from hypnosis to aromatherapy. Gerard C. Whitworth, one of the perfusionists who operates the machinery in the heart unit, was interested in hypnosis. (Whitworth wanted to explore new approaches to cardiac care in memory of his father, who had died of inoperable heart disease.) Most doctors were familiar with hypnosis from medical school; it didn’t entail any science-straining leaps of faith. The review board approved the study, and in August, Oz and company set to work. They obtained the consent of 22 patients scheduled for surgery at the hospital. Nine were designated a control group; the remaining 13 were taught self-hypnosis. The instructors focused on helping the patients to relax their jaw and throat muscles in hopes of lessening the stress of having a breathing tube inserted down the throat. They suggested that the patients try to extend their hypnotic state to the surgery itself, in essence to program themselves to minimize their bleeding, maintain normal blood pressure and, in some unknown, subliminal way, reduce their experience of pain and discomfort. After their operations, the patients were to concentrate on healing quickly. The goal was to see how hypnosis changed the patients’ quality of life — an outcome Oz and his colleagues assessed by having patients check off their levels of stress and depression on a standard psychological-mood inventory. The results, which Oz hopes to publish in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, suggest that patients who were taught self-hypnosis were significantly less tense after the operation than patients who didn’t have the training. Their scores for depression and fatigue were also lower. As Oz and others point out, many benefits arise from being able to reduce pain without medication: patients are spared side effects like constipation and stomach bleeding; they feel empowered having participated in their own recovery; they can leave the hospital sooner.”

“… Probably the most painful part of Joyce Donadio’s heart surgery was at the beginning, when a catheter was being inserted into the jugular vein in her neck. “Now, Mrs. Donadio,” said the anesthesiology resident in a saccharine voice. Donadio gripped Motz’s hand and rolled away from the pain of the needle. Motz spoke soothingly to her. You did not have to know anything about energy medicine or subscribe to the belief that a field of unmeasurable energy flows in and about the body to see what it meant to one person to be able to hold the hand of another at T minus zero. A week later, Donadio was sitting in her hospital room with her husband, Joe, a parking-enforcement officer. She’d climbed a set of stairs and washed her hair. Her appetite had returned. The zipper wounds on her chest and left leg were mending nicely. Oz and Motz and Smith stopped by to see her. Oz said she’d be going home soon. He lingered for a bit, then ducked out to check on other patients. “She’s euphoric now,” he said. “I want her to get greedy. Her purpose is not just to survive; it’s to go out and do great things.” The two women stayed a while longer. Donadio said to Motz, “I was so afraid, and you made me feel relaxed. At last somebody wasn’t telling me what was going to hurt but what was positive. I told my girlfriend about it on the phone, and she said, ‘What is she?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ ” Donadio looked at the two women and then at her husband. “If I have to go for an operation ever again, I’m calli ng them, I swear to God.” Chip Brown is writing a book about alternative medicine. His last article for the Magazine was about the secession movement on Staten Island. Dr. Judith Orloff Talks About Intuition On The Dr. Oz Show

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by Chip Brown
Mehmet C. Oz, MD, a world-renowned heart surgeon, medical innovator/inventor and pioneer in integrative medicine, is the Director of the Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center. He is the author of "Healing From the Heart" and co-author of the bestseller, "You: The Owner’s Manual". Dr. Oz appears frequently on prominent TV programs, including Oprah Winfrey’s and is senior medical advisor to Discovery Channel. After five years and 55 shows on Oprah, Dr. Oz headed to New York to launch his own show on Fox 5. Visit for more info!