Embattled Dr Oz Show Hires Physician From Consumer Reports

June 05, 2015

After recent criticism that it dispenses unscientific medical advice, the television show hosted by Mehmet Oz, MD, has hired a preventive medicine specialist from Consumer Reports magazine to head its medical unit.

The new hire, Michael Crupain, MD, directs the magazine's Food Safety and Sustainability Center, which has delved into such matters as safe-to-eat shrimp. Dr Crupain completed a residency in preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and earned a Master's degree in public health there as well.

He also completed 2 years of a neurosurgery residency program before leaving to serve as the director of quality assurance and regulatory affairs of a biomaterials company called Endomedix for 2 years.

Dr Crupain will report to work at the Dr Oz Show later this year in time to help produce the fall season. The medical unit soon to be under his command researches and approves scripts, evaluates guests, orders and edits medical animation, and works with a medical advisory board, according to a news release from the show. It quotes him as saying that he is "passionate about studying evidence-based and best-practice approaches to preventing disease."

Dr Crupain also will "lead efforts to enhance the show's ongoing dialogue with the medical community," according to the news release.

Dr Oz's relationship with the medical community, or at least some segments of it, has been rocky during the past few months. In April, 10 physicians from across the country urged Columbia University in a letter to fire Dr Oz from his academic post there because, as they put it, he disdains evidence-based medicine and promotes "quack treatment" for financial gain.

The university responded by defending academic freedom for its faculty. On his television show, Dr Oz characterized some of the letter writers as hired guns of companies such as Monsanto who promote genetically modified foods, which he wants labeled as such. Four of the 10 letter writers have connections to the American Council on Science and Health, which opposes mandatory labeling of genetically modified food.

Later in April, eight members of the Columbia University faculty said in an opinion-editorial piece for USA Today that Dr Oz's "unsubstantiated" medical advice on the show "sullies the reputation" of their school. They did not say that the university should fire their colleague, however. Dr Oz responded in a Time magazine article by saying that he respected the opinions of his colleagues. "I try to improve the show accordingly," he said.

In an email to Medscape Medical News, Dr Oz said that "this year has shown that we need to be accessible to the medical community when they have ideas, questions and concerns about our show."

"Dr. Crupain will oversee the building of that bridge as a formal liaison," he said.

Dr Crupain said as much in an interview with Medscape Medical News. He described his hiring as "in some ways a reaction" to the recent controversy about the television show.

"It's my job to address those issues," he said. "We've done that in the past. The show is looking to enhance that effort."

He called The Dr Oz Show "one of the largest platforms out there for teaching people to lead healthier lives."

Similar to Dr Oz, Dr Crupain Is a Foodie

Dr Crupain is no stranger to the Dr Oz Show. In 2011, he worked in the show's medical unit while he was a preventive medicine resident at Johns Hopkins.

He also shares Dr Oz's strong interest in diet and nutrition. He once produced a video blog called The Dairy Show that discussed responsible agriculture. He serves on the board of a group called Slow Food NYC.

Henry Miller, MD, a former member of the American Council on Science and Health board of trustees and one of the signatories of the letter to Columbia University seeking Dr Oz's ouster, declined to comment on the hiring of Dr Crupain. So did Gilbert Ross, MD, another signatory who is the executive and medical director of the council.

Medscape Medical News did receive a response from Michael Rosenbaum, MD, a pediatrics professor at Columbia University who coauthored the article about Dr Oz in USA Today.

"Dr Oz has really created a new medical subspecialty which might be called 'virtual medicine,' " Dr Rosenbaum said in an email. "The Dr Oz Show and similar programs have a tremendous potential to provide valuable information or destructive misinformation to their 'virtual patients.'

"The fact that nutraceuticals and other non-Western remedies are not regulated in the US does not excuse Dr Oz from his obligations as a physician to disclose any conflicts of interests he has, potential side effects, and whether this is evidence based medicine, anecdotal medicine, or theoretical medicine.

"Hopefully, Dr Crupain will help the program grow into these responsibilities."

Critics of Dr Oz's promotion of diet products include Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who told him in a June 2014 Senate hearing that he bore responsibility for perpetuating fraud on his television show. When he described the products as miracles, McCaskill said, "it's something that gives people false hope." Dr Oz recently has said that he regrets having hyping these products and that his show stopped mentioning them a year ago.

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