Hollywood's Top Doctors: Meet the M.D. Who Removed Dr. Oz's Colon Polyp
They're not just doctors; they also play themselves on TV
This story first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Dr. Oz, daytime star and cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, lies prone in a blue Dior suit on a gurney in an unfinished wing at Columbia University Medical Center's Milstein Family Heart Center. Standing over him with his hands around Dr. Oz's neck in a suspicious strangling hold is his doctor, Dr. LaPook, chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley -- and a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. "You’ll notice he’s losing color bit by bit as I’m occluding both carotid arteries," says LaPook dryly. Oz feigns a swoon.
If gallows humor is common among doctors, both men are deadly serious about their commitment to their patients and millions of TV viewers who look to them for expertise and advice. "The interesting thing is that the conversations that you're having with your patients are reflected in the show and vice versa," says Oz, 54. "So I'm a much better doctor now."
The Dr. Oz Show, which had its sixth-season premiere Sept. 8, is watched by more than 3 million people each day. But as Oz's popularity has grown, he has become an unwilling shill for all manner of so-called miracle cures. "I end every single show telling people, 'I don't sell things,' " says Oz. "If you see my name or a picture of me selling you a product, please know it's not real. Obviously, there are a lot of people who don't watch the show who only know me through fake ads. And part of the challenge that I have is getting to those folks."
Still, TV medicine has much to impart. When LaPook, 60, performed a routine colonoscopy on Oz four years ago that found an adenomatous polyp (if left untreated, these can lead to colon cancer 10 or 15 years down the road), it presented a teachable moment. The procedure became a feature on The Dr. Oz Show and also a storyline on the first season of ABC's NY Med. Oz has no family history of colon cancer, exercises regularly (he takes the stairs whenever he can) and maintains a healthy, bordering on austere, diet. So the results were eye-opening and an opportunity to remind viewers that routine exams can save lives. "The best thing I can tell any man who thinks he controls his destiny is, look your loved ones in the eyes and tell them you're too busy," says Oz. "If you're not around because you died of a completely avoidable cancer, that's a real shame." Adds LaPook: "The excuse many people give [for not screening] is, 'I didn't want to do the prep.' Well, the prep beats chemo."
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