At Harvard, which he finished in three-and-a-half years, he was both a pre-med biology major and a member of the water polo and football teams (he played safety). During his graduate school years, he attended both the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school—where he was voted class chairman and school president—as well as its business school, Wharton. As a surgeon at Columbia, he quickly gained a reputation as a talented researcher and as fleet-fingered surgeon—even as he held down a marriage, spawned four kids, and ran marathons. (To this day his blood pressure is 110 over 70, while his cholesterol is 160.)
It’s no wonder he believes that people can master their fate.
“HE’S A PHENOMENAL SURGEON. Technically he’s got excellent hands,” said Dr. Mathew Williams, surgical director of cardiovascular transcatheter therapies at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. “You hear the term “thinking outside the box” a lot, but he really epitomizes that. He’s come up with a lot of innovative ways to tackle problems.”
In fact, the only area that Dr. Oz has not yet conquered seems to be the grotty gladiators’ ring of politics—though that area, too, might someday be Oz-ified. A self-described “moderate Republican” concerned with “fiscal and leadership issues,” Dr. Oz has been active in his local Republican Party (in New Jersey) for several years, donated handsomely to G.O.P. candidates like Senators John McCain and Bill Frist and, when asked, readily acknowledged that the idea of elected office has crossed his mind. “I get asked all the time about it,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed leading people.”
Should he choose to enter the electoral fray, Dr. Oz already has two icons whose political path he said he would like to follow: California bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he calls a “wonderful” guy and a “good chess player too” (and whose picture sits proudly in Dr. Oz’s office alongside a bottle of wine the Governator gave him for moderating his health summit in July 2006); and Teddy Roosevelt, the original boot-strapping individualist.
“Teddy Roosevelt to me was the ideal Republican,” he said. “He was someone who felt strongly about the need for individuals to make the place work better without having someone tell them how to do it. But they had an obligation to do that as well. It wasn’t a favor for the country; it was an obligation as Americans.”
Has somebody been practicing his stump speech?
Still, obligations to Americans aside, it looks like the rise of Candidate Oz may still be a few years in the future. “Maybe down the road, if I learn my lessons well and people still think that I might be able to do it, I’d consider it,” he said. For now, his duty lies elsewhere—in supersizing the message of “wellness” and “vitality” that he teaches his patients every day in his office.
It lies, in other words, with YOU.