By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief
In the “what could he have been thinking?” category, Mehmet Oz, MD, wins first place—well, at least, for now. I’m sure someone else will come along soon and take his place.
In case you’ve been MIA the last month, Oz became a target for nursing ire when, on his November 4 show, he danced with several women who were wearing nurses’ uniforms revealing red lingerie. The segment apparently had nothing to do with nurses, but rather weight loss through dancing. (So of course that would make one think of nurses with red lingerie???)
I’m hoping it was a case where he “just didn’t think”—rather than that he thought that the segment might possibly offend nurses but decided to go with it anyway. Dogged by a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Sandy Summers of the nursing image advocacy and watchdog group, The Truth About Nursing, and from criticism from other nursing groups like the American Nurses Association, Oz apparently released a statement on December 6 apologizing, according to various news reports. However, one can’t find it anywhere on his Web site or on the Web, for that matter.
It’s always interesting to see the level of offense colleagues and others feel. Comments posted on news sites carrying the story ranged from “oh geez, when did everyone get so freaking sensitive about everything?” and “I am a nurse and I can honestly say this doesn’t bother me one single bit. Some people really need to get a grip on life” to “I like Dr. Oz, but I have to agree, it was poor taste.” I have to say the majority of comments I read did not view this as something worth making a fuss about. In fact, The New York Daily News included a poll asking if the segment was offensive: 51% of respondents voted “of course not, it’s just a joke”; 22% voted “absolutely, he shouldn’t have done it”; and 26% voted “who cares?”
I myself am torn at times as to which battles are worth making a ruckus about, but not this time. —and yes, it is a TV show, so it’s first about entertainment and ratings—is purported to be about health teaching; it refers to Oz as “America’s doctor.” Oz has millions of viewers who take their cues from him. In this instance, he clearly pandered to entertainment and crowd pleasing.
So I wonder about his credibility—what else does he not think through thoroughly? Does he really carefully think about the health information he shares with his audience, or is that something staffers prepare and he just delivers? Oz blew it, and I’m grateful for Sandy Summers and other individuals and groups that watch out for nursing and raise awareness
When the Dr. Oz show was being developed, I received a call from someone on the staff asking if I (meaning AJN) would help promote the show. I told him I couldn’t do that; I said I could write a review about it, but only after seeing several segments to judge the content and I couldn’t guarantee it would be favorable. He kept trying to “sell me” on the show, how it was going to be different and couldn’t I write something before it aired so nurses would at least watch. I made him a deal: I said I would write something to urge nurses to watch if they had a nurse co-host, because THAT would be different to see. Stammer, silence, thank you for your thoughts, we’ll take that under consideration, yada yada.
What message would it send to viewers if Oz had a nurse co-host, as a colleague? I challenge TV health programmers to be different—nurses are (for the 9th consecutive year) the most trusted profession. When are you guys going to get it?