After Months of Criticism, ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ Makes Big Changes

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Dr. Oz will focus his entire upcoming season on the mind-body connection and make some changes in his show format to be more inclusive of the audience. (Photo: Getty Images)

After enduring months of intense criticism, Dr. Mehmet Oz is changing the direction of his show.

The entire upcoming season of The Dr. Oz Show — which kicks off Monday, September 14 — will focus on the mind-body connection and feature a partnership with former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, MD.

In the past, Dr. Oz has come under fire for the advice given on his show. Now, the newly focused program will use medical and other experts whose advice is based in research.

Critics called for Oz’s dismissal from his position as the vice chair of the Department of Surgery at Columbia University in April. In a letter to the university, a group of 10 doctors from prestigious institutions such as Stanford, the University of California, and the University of North Carolina said Oz had a penchant for “promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain” and called his position at such a well-regarded school “unacceptable.”

Oz publicly responded to the letter at the time by saying ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ is actually “not a medical show,” but he later told NBC News that “there are segments I made that I wish I could take back.“

Oz acknowledges that the changes to his show are a direct result of some of the criticism he’s faced.

“It’s been coming for a long time,” he tells Yahoo Health. “It’s always good to hear criticism, and especially criticism that you can react to.”

Oz says that a lot of the criticism he heard was about a “very fundamental reality” involving the interaction fans of the show were having with their doctors. “Sometimes what I was saying wasn’t portrayed the way I thought it should be portrayed in the office setting,” he says. “I do feel that [the new direction] will address some of the criticism, both from the spring and in the last year.”

Among the changes: Audience members will be more involved in the show and actually chat with Oz, allowing him to correct any misunderstandings on the spot.

“It’s less of a one-way, me speaking to you,” he says. “That’s important because if I’m explaining about thyroid problems … I can sit with a woman on the show who really needs to get her thyroid checked and watch for things that I can correct.”

Oz says he hopes that back-and-forth will get people at home to think differently about the message he’s portraying and may even encourage viewers to ask their doctor about a medical issue they might not have otherwise.

The mind-body focus will address anxiety, happiness, and ways to have a healthy mind, among other things, Oz says. It will also include a partnership with the National Council on Behavioral Health. “I was exposed to some data in the spring that revealed most Americans are more worried about their emotional and mental health than their physical health,” Oz explains about the season’s focus.

As for the partnership with Satcher, Oz says it developed simply because “he called me.” Satcher won’t be on the show all the time, but the show’s “healthy mind curriculum” will use content from the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

While Oz acknowledges that the show will be different, he also says the changes will appeal to “anybody who is a fan of the show.”

But experts aren’t so sure

W. Douglas Evans, director of the Public Health Communication and Marketing Program at George Washington University, tells Yahoo Health that the move is a “little risky,” adding that “a lot depends on how Dr. Oz is going to implement the changes.”

If Oz gets too technical with his explanations, Evans says, he can risk alienating his audience, many of whom just want to be entertained — while learning a little.

However, Evans says the partnership with Satcher is incredibly smart on Oz’s part. “It lends tremendous amount of credibility to him,” he says. “In some ways it’s a little surprising that Dr. Satcher is aligning himself with Dr. Oz, given the controversy surrounding him.”

“This is definitely a fork in the road for The Dr. Oz Show,” pop culture and TV analyst Segun Oduolowu tells Yahoo Health. “It is not only necessary but mandatory for Dr. Oz, should he continue his show, to base his programs in science and fact.”

Listening to critics could go either way, Oduolowu says — some may see it as a “last-ditch attempt,” while others could view it as simply refining what is already popular.

Those critics have stayed surprisingly silent on the proposed changes.

Only one of the authors of the April letter responded to Yahoo Health’s request for comment: Stanford University’s Henry Miller, MD, said he was “not interested” in the news and otherwise had no comment.

Will this new approach be a winner for Oz? We’ll have to wait and see.

“Ratings are all that matter,” Oduolowu says. “If the new show does well, critics be damned. If it does poorly, then Toto just pulled the curtain aside, exposing the limitations of the wizard.”

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