Celebrity Doctors - Check Their Credentials and Follow the Money

Dr. Mehmet Oz's media empire continues to grow. As long as you keep buying his products, he'll keep selling them. But follow the money to decide whether that's such a good idea. Getty Images - Bryan Bedder

Smart patients know how to assess the credibility of celebrity and media providers – those celebrities who have "doctor" in their name, but may, or may not, be great resources for credible health and medical information.

The problem is that too many people believe too much they hear from these media celebrities without questioning whether or not the advice they provide is really in their own best interests.

In fact, most of their recommendations are in the doctors' best interests - and not the viewers, listeners or readers.

Please note that much of this is personal opinion based on the rules for reviewing credentials and determining whether there are ulterior motives for the advice these doctors give.

Celebrity Doctors with TV Shows

  • Mehmet Oz
    Although he supposedly still practices medicine, Dr. Mehmet Oz is everywhere. On TV, the web, staring back at us from supermarket checkout magazine displays, he has become a media machine, one is healthy and happy looking, and comes across as trustworthy like our mothers. 

    It’s the media machine that’s disturbing. You can watch him on TV for free, but much of what he does is drive you to his website or books. You can find him on the web, but what he wants you to do is purchase his advertised supplements (to make his advertisers happy), or to link to one of his other income-producing properties (ShareCare, and You books.)  He earns his money based on his numbers of viewers and pageviews, all of which promote the things he makes more money from.

    Dr. Oz's fans and foes have plenty to say about him here at Patient Empowerment. Do you agree? or disagree?
  • The Doctors TV Show
    Look no further than The Doctors TV show to see those handsome and seemingly trustworthy doctors who are just so darn believable.  Dr. Travis Stork, Dr. Drew Ordon, Dr. Jennifer Ashton and others.  I give them props for building awareness of the opportunities and problems in medicine. 

    But I subtract BIG time for some of the very foolish comments those doctors who don’t know about their current topic make (see the comment listed here made by Drew Ordon about hospital infections.)  Further, their website is covered in ads to beef up their income. You can purchase a call with a doctor (learn why this is a bad idea), you can buy Ordon’s skin care program or Stork’s book or a variety of other products. In my opinion, this subtracts from their credibility.

    Alternative, Complementary or Naturopathic Celebrity and Media Doctors

    • Joseph Mercola
      Reigning over his media and product empire, Dr. Joseph Mercola is a one-man money printing machine.  He is a master of fear-mongering and conspiracy theories taking on the “medical-industrial complex” and pointing followers instead to HIS products which are, of course, so much more, well, natural!  (Don’t forget – natural isn’t always better. It can also be dangerous.)

      In fact, he is such a fear-monger that it doesn’t seem to matter to him if his claims are true or not. As long as he sells more of his products he’ll keep making them. Even if the FDA sanctions him, he makes so much more money than it costs him to pay fines that he just keeps up the ruse. He seems to buy into the P.T. Barnum-ism of the suckers who are born every minute.  His schtick seems to be, “the government is evil, mainstream medicine is government based (which it isn’t) and therefore believe ME, because I’m not the government!” (See slippery slope arguments.)

      Learn more about Mercola as lightening rod from Chicago Magazine.  Read the article – remember it’s neutral (Chicago Magazine has no stake in whether or not you buy into Mercola’s products) – and decide for yourself using these guidelines.
    • Dr. Andrew Weil
      Andrew Weil, medical doctor and naturopath has an immense online following where, like Mercola, he advises and sells herbs, supplements and other “natural” remedies.  In this case, though, he doesn’t offer his advice as an alternative to the medical-industrial complex. Rather he offers it based on evidence and with the goal of health and happiness – yours.  We still have to follow the money when it comes to Dr. Weil. But we don’t have to protect our wallets in quite the same way as we do with Mercola.
    • Gary Null
      Like Mercola, Gary Null hails from the conspiracy theory school of medical promotion. He has been pushing out his ideas through the media for decades, including a syndicated radio show and several books. At least his website doesn’t try to hide the fact that his advice is less important than all the “stuff” (literally – that’s what he calls it) he sells. 

      The two biggest question marks about Gary Null are this:  he claims to have a PhD (but it turns out it’s one he invented himself) and in 2010, he sued himself because he got so sick following some of his own advice

      In this case, you don’t really even need to follow the money to let common sense take over.

    Mental Health

    • Dr. Phil McGraw
      So I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of Dr. Phil-isms.  “No matter how flat the pancake, it still has two sides.”  Or  “How’s that workin’ for ya?” or “That dog don’t hunt.” They all have relevance at certain times and make great points in somewhat humorous ways.

      But I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Phil’s approach to exposing the sad and horrible sides of people’s lives on his daily TV show. I always feel like he has exploited those poor people, so watching his show feels like I’m rubbernecking a highway accident.

      Further, it's too easy to come away with the impression that, just like a fictional medical or legal TV show, these massive life problems can be solved in less than hour.  Logically and intelligently, I know that’s not possible.  But most of the time, his guests leave with smiles on their faces.

      So – my only real problem with Dr. Phil is not so much about follow the money (he does sell books and you can invite him to speak at a gathering for tens of thousands of dollars) than it is about coming away with unrealistic expectations.  Yes, there are a dozen or more websites that question his credentials – I’ll leave you to do those searches yourself.  My only admonition is to watch the show because you like to watch train wrecks and not because you think it might actually solve something for you.
    • Dr. Laura Schlessinger
      A radio personality for decades and the author of several books, Dr. Laura is known for telling it like it is, no holds barred, in a very brash and in-your-face manner.  Years ago I listened to her regularly. Early on I used to wonder how she could possibly get away with talking to people the way she does!  But then I realized – they call her. They ask for it. They expect it. And she puts them in their place.

      Dr. Laura has a list of credentials that ranks up there with the most educated and experienced, so there’s no question about her qualifications to dish the advice she does. To an extent she’s a media machine beyond her radio show, selling books, programs and memberships to her site.  But for the most part, you can learn from her, not be talked into purchasing anything at all, and know that even if you don’t agree with her, you will have learned something.

    Of course, there are many other well-known celebrity and media doctors. This is only a sampling. The key is that now you can see how to vet the capabilities and credibility of these media people whose advice you are tempted to follow so you can better determine whether they offer anything at all that can be useful to you instead of simply lucrative for them.


    Do you have a favorite TV or radio celebrity doctor you'd like to review?  We'd love to know what you think, too.  Here's how you can provide a review of a TV or radio doctor.

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