As a boy, Mehmet Oz watched his father perform painful procedures on sick patients who later thanked him for saving their lives. These events set the stage for the medical career of the Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon cum media star. “Dad changed the lives of those around him,” Oz says of his mentor, who died in February at age 93. “Because of his work, I fell in love with medicine.”
During the years Oz served as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he developed a tremendous audience that followed him to his own program, The Dr. Oz Show. Through his open, direct, and articulate style, he has addressed the health and wellness concerns of millions of viewers, earning 10 Daytime Emmy Awards along the way.
In addition, Oz performs dozens of heart operations as an attending physician at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center. He’s authored eight New York Times best sellers and writes a syndicated newspaper column that appears in 175 markets internationally. He also gives frequent public talks that he calls “punch biopsies of our communities” to keep abreast of what people need to know. And he is a fervent medical researcher on the subjects of heart replacement surgery, minimally invasive surgery, alternative medicine, and health care policy.
Yet despite this daunting schedule, Oz is more dedicated to his energy level than overall time management. “If the tasks you pursue give you the life force of Qi, then you can keep pursuing them forever and the time passes effortlessly,” he says.
Although he spends part of the year at his Mizner-designed Palm Beach home, he primarily lives in northern New Jersey, where he is close to the hospital and his TV work. “I love the fast-paced, highly informative, and entertaining aspect of my show,” Oz says. “I get to be myself daily in front of millions of people in 100 countries around the world. And I meet the most important influencers who have messages for my audience.”
The glib communicator “loved” his first episode 10 years ago where he focused on the science of sex, and “adored” his thousandth with actor Hugh Jackman and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek. “I especially enjoy my big interventions with stars like Charlie Sheen when he was struggling with an HIV diagnosis, and Rosie O”Donnell after her surprise heart attack,” he says. “I also like the crime segments where I have families of victims and even perpetrators speak honestly about the evil failings of the human mind.”
Oz is able to juggle many projects because he knows how to remain calm in the face of success. He believes the trappings of stardom are a veneer that covers the deeper struggles people face in their daily lives. “I look for joy in seemingly small events—my 3-year-old grandson John insisting that I take him to hit balls, my wife Lisa’s newest culinary creation, an epiphany during a dinner conversation,” he says. “Never tolerate the status quo, meaning never tolerate success which can numb the soul.”
Keeping fit and eating healthy foods (nuts and produce without saturated fats) also provide the needed energy to excel in the work and family projects important to him, including leisure travel to Turkey and Italy. In New Jersey, he rises at 6 a.m., does seven minutes of yoga, showers, then works out on an elliptical while watching videos. From 7 to 9:30 a.m., he either rehearses his show or makes hospital rounds while eating a breakfast of yogurt and berries followed by a TV taping or heart operation. Lunch is salmon with broccoli or salad, then a 15-minute nap before a second show or operation. After a 6 p.m. dinner, he answers emails, makes conference calls, or talks with Lisa until 10 p.m. before winding down by reading for 30 minutes.
In Palm Beach, he plays tennis or golf at The Breakers, allows for 90 minutes of yoga on the beach, has breakfast with his family (occasionally indulging in croissants), walks or bikes with Lisa, reads and works, swims in the pool with his four children and three grandchildren, visits friends, and dines at Buccan, Echo, or other favorite restaurants.
“The natural beauty of Palm Beach attracts our family, and we love that the island is rich in culture and cuisine and has a fabulous civic society and leadership that protects our quality of life,” he says. “Lisa’s family has been in Palm Beach for 60 years, and we hope to spend more time there.”
His newest work project is a podcast for busy professionals who don’t watch daytime TV and long for deeper discussions on major health challenges. He also focuses on philanthropy and the need for civic leadership. With Lisa, he founded HealthCorps, a 15-year-old program that emulates the Peace Corps by placing recent college graduates into high schools around the nation to teach fitness, diet, and mental resilience.
Throughout it all, he has learned the importance of partnering with similar-minded colleagues to scale up the impact. “We attended the Seminar Network created by Charles Koch and enjoyed the apolitical nature of the conference, which was focused on the major challenges facing all Americans including education and criminal justice reform,” Oz says.
Staying on top of his field is important because he has learned that people don’t change based on what they know, they change because of how they feel. If he can motivate their hearts, he believes he can more easily fix their problems.
While Oz can be so laser focused on details that his colleagues sometimes complain that he is “persnickety,” he feels this is the key to being the best. “How you do anything is how you do everything,” he says. “I don’t tolerate mediocrity at any level, including relationships, efficiency, and creativity.” —Linda Marx