Mehmet Cengiz Öz, widely known as Dr. Oz, is a television personality and medical professional who was formerly a cardiothoracic surgeon. Born June 11, 1960, in America to Turkish immigrants, he is a dual citizen of the US and Turkey, and participated in six weeks of mandatory training in the Turkish Army in the 1980s. In 2021, Dr. Oz declared his intention to run in Pennsylvania’s 2022 US Senate election to succeed retiring incumbent Senator Pat Toomey. He subsequently became the Republican nominee, the first Muslim to be nominated by either major party for US Senate. His Democratic opponent in next week’s election is Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who suffered a serious stroke before the primaries; their widely publicized debate on October 25 was billed as the most closely watched midterm debate in the country this year.
I spoke with Dr. Oz about the elections, as well as his life in medicine and his interest in politics.
You’re very close to being elected to the US Senate despite not having any experience in politics. Do you find that surprising, and perhaps even a little daunting?
No. I’ve been waging this same battle throughout my career in television for the past 13 years. I have fought against big pharma, big chemical companies and big tech companies—even taking on the US government when it was wrong. I used all the tools a person needs to have in order to win these battles. I have a bold, loud voice that can speak for Pennsylvania in the exact same fashion to protect our values.
How would you define those values?
My values are about individualism. I believe that the individual can handle his or her life better than anyone else. I don’t believe in top-down, authoritarian decisions, because they don’t work. They aren’t sustainable. They may work in a crisis for a short period of time, but humans are very complicated and so is capitalism. The ability of the government to micromanage the economy or individual health issues—or frankly, most of the factors that bring happiness and joy to our lives—is very limited. And even if the government tries, it often runs into problems. It’s not that the government isn’t trying; it’s just hard to do. We have to accept that.
You started out with name recognition, which was probably at 100% before you even announced your candidacy. Your only challenge was to get your message out and convince people that you would make a good senator.
Having seen me on national TV for so many years, most people know that I will stand up for what they believe is important because I share their values and will continue to fight for them as I have always done, even at personal risk.
I posed this question to Dr. Ben Carson, who is a retired neurosurgeon, and am now going to ask you the same thing: What makes a successful surgeon choose to leave medicine and go into the seemingly messy world of politics?
I’m in the business of change. I always believed that healing was my calling and have done so to the best of my ability, but at the same time I also challenged the field to make it even better. For example, I’d invent devices to address problems and come up with new ways of talking about things so that patients could act on their own behalf to prevent illness. These are all things that were considered outside the normal practice of medicine, but I thought it made medicine better, and I used my abilities to help. As my Jewish friends always say, the ultimate goal is to bring light to the world. That’s how I thought I could serve.
Over the last few years I’ve seen our nation in crisis, and like many others, I’ve wondered what I could do about it. I came to the conclusion that in my case, it involved a big step that would require me to burn some bridges. Failure is not an option. This country is in a situation right now where we need outsiders to come in and say, “Enough!” There are basic decisions to be made that require people who are brave but also aren’t conflicted.
Maimonides was a practicing physician, yet he wrote that a life of public service is the greatest calling. I guess you would agree.
I’ve actually been to his tomb.