By Hannah Reich Berman
For years I wondered about the ethnicity of the name Oz. That would be Oz as in Dr. Mehmet Oz. It’s not as if Oz is a name as common as Smith or Jones. It isn’t even as common as Schwartz or Cohen. I wanted to know if he was a Christian or a Jew. It wouldn’t much matter either way, but I was curious. So I did some research and I learned that Dr. Mehmet Oz was born to a Muslim family. His name, Mehmet, is inspired from the name of the Prophet Mohammed and is the most common Turkish male name. So that clinched it for me. I researched, got the information I wanted, and learned that he was not a member of my tribe. (It should be noted here that when I claim to have done research, it means that I have done nothing more than to go to Google and click once or twice. Anyone can do that, but it sounds so much more impressive if I say that I researched something.)
Each time I heard the name Oz, I thought only of the story The Wizard of Oz. Unseen for most of the tale, the wizard is highly venerated by his subjects, who believe that he is the only man capable of solving their problems. Dorothy and her friends travel to the Emerald City, the capital of Oz, to meet him. Initially, the Wizard is reluctant to meet them, but he eventually gives in and agrees to grant each of them an audience, one by one. And in each of these occasions the wizard appears in a different form. He appears once as a giant head, once as a beautiful fairy, once as a ball of fire, and another time as a horrible monster. When, at last, he grants an audience to all of them at once, he seems to be a disembodied voice. And eventually it is revealed that Oz is nothing more than a rather kind, ordinary man from Omaha, Nebraska, who has been using elaborate magic tricks and props to make himself seem great and powerful.
One day his hot-air balloon sailed into the Land of Oz, and he found himself worshipped as a great sorcerer. As Oz had no leadership at the time, he became supreme ruler of the kingdom and did his best to sustain the myth. He leaves Oz at the end of the novel, again in a hot-air balloon. And that’s it for the great Oz.
Now we come to another Oz. Dr. Mehmet Oz received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He holds an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and an MBA from the Wharton School. He is a professor of cardiac surgery at Columbia, director of the heart assistance device program, founder of the complementary medicine program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and author of several books. The man gives new meaning to the word overachiever! Clearly he is brilliant and accomplished. And, unlike the man in Oz, he uses no magic tricks or props.
Still, I wonder about him. He makes me nervous. The man just does too much for my comfort. In addition to his many medical degrees, he hosts his own hit television show. He’s both a doctor and a TV personality, one who promotes cures for everything from acne to insomnia. His biggest sellers are, without question, weight-loss cures, and there is never a shortage of those. True, obesity is a serious problem in the United States and I don’t for a minute question his altruism. He wants the public to get healthy. But he might be overdoing it. He has promoted countless weight-loss miracle cures over the years. The latest one is a “fat buster” known as Garcinia cambogia.
I suppose that Oz is a nice enough guy, but he confuses medicine with marketing. What people love about the fads he promotes are his claims that these are “quick fixes” and that substantial weight loss can be accomplished without diet or exercise. This is at best a dubious claim, and anyone with a brain, even folks like me who don’t like to diet or exercise, have to question the wisdom in that philosophy. But there is a bigger question: why does a brilliant physician climb on all these different bandwagons and promote unproven cures?
The logical answer is that the man must be making a fortune. Personally, I think he is as much of a wizard as the kook in Emerald City. The only difference between them is that this Oz has never appeared as a giant head, a horrible monster, or a beautiful fairy. And I never heard that he went the route of presenting himself as a disembodied voice. Nevertheless, I thought they might be related, so I investigated.
Back I went to my trusty Google to learn more about the title character in The Wizard of Oz. That fellow had many names and he came up with Oz by using the initials of the first two of them, Oscar Zoroaster. The guy was a creative genius. But, if you ask me, the modern-day Oz is no less so. Anyone who has the public eating out of his hand must be creative. Mehmet Oz, doctor, professor, surgeon, and television personality, gets people to part with their hard-earned money by trying his weight-loss fads.
Note: The thought never occurred to me that I had company. Foolishly, I thought I was alone in my skepticism. Happily, I have discovered that I was wrong. The bulk of this column was written many weeks ago–well before a Senate committee caught up with this popular doctor.
And now, after all these years, someone has finally put the kibosh on him! He appeared in front of a Senate committee just this past week and was excoriated by the senators who questioned him. He has been referred to as the Lizard of Oz. I wish I had thought of that! I did not. But it means that, at the very least, someone other than me has made the connection between the man and the Wizard of Oz tale. That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.