OZ, The Great and Powerful… (not)

John Whitaker Audacious Ideas, Bad HR, John Whitaker, SHRM

Like many of you, I’ve received plenty of collateral material inviting me to the SHRM National Conference in Las Vegas. Let’s put aside for a minute the temperature in Nevada in late June, and instead focus on the the world-renowned speakers booked for the event.

First of all, it seems the ladies in our profession are in for a real treat this year—not only do we get Mrs. “Lean In” herself, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, but we also get former Gallup golden-boy Marcus Buckingham. Forget the steak baby, we got the sizzle in spades.

"I call this one...Blue Steel"

“I call this one…Blue Steel”

And then… we don’t.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, SHRM decided to go carnival barker on us for our closing session. Perhaps thinking my mother would be in attendance looking for a “magic” pill, our closing speaker will be none other than the great and powerful Dr. Mehmet Oz.

What. The. Hell.

Was Jerry Springer unavailable?

Dr. Oz was/is a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, but I’m guessing that has less to do with his invitation than his “cult of personality” existence, first hatched by the Oprah star-making machine back in 2004. Damn that Oprah.

Look, the guy definitely has plenty of credentials and awards… it’s quite a laundry list, but here are a few such accomplishments, compliments of Wikipedia:

“Time ranked Oz at 44th on its list of the “100 Most Influential People in 2008”; Esquire magazine placed him on its list of the “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century”; The World Economic Forum called him a Global Leader of Tomorrow; 02138 magazine named him one of Harvard’s 100 Most Influential Alumni. He won the Gross Surgical Research Scholarship. He was listed in “Doctors of the Year” by Hippocrates magazine and in “Healers of the Millennium” by Healthy Living magazine. Pretty impressive.”

Oh… and there’s also this—he’s a bit of a quack.

Adam Apstein (Dec 2014), in a study published in the British Medical Journal found that the effectiveness of Oz’s medical advice was a little a, um, “askew.” He found that 51 percent of his recommendations had no scientific backing and rationale, or in some cases contradicted scientific evidence. The study showed that 36 points of the 51 percent consisted of no supporting scientific evidence, while the remaining 15 percentage points went directly against scientific evidence. We have local meteorologists with a better accuracy rate.

You may also be familiar with the weight loss scams that have been found to have Oz support, if not complicit, in their promotion without FDA approval; remember the Green Coffee Bean Extract? That one got him scolded by the Senate. Ever heard of the “Pigasus” Award? It’s an award given by the James Randi Educational Foundation (sidebar: remember the Amazing Randi? Spoon-benders everywhere tremble at the name.) to the most deserving charlatan of the year. Well, our boy Oz is the only 3-time winner of an award given for “claiming something so doubtful that it will only happen “when pigs fly“.

Still, he’s got a pretty nice position at Columbia University—currently the Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Sweet gig. Except now that’s under attack, too. An email, authored by Dr. Henry Miller (now a Stanford Fellow, previously an FDA honcho) was sent to Columbia University calling Oz’s faculty position unacceptable. They accused Oz of “an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack [there’s that word] treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” Columbia University is standing by their man for now, for rea$on$ that have yet to be fully explained.

Is this guy great or what? At least he has the good sense to lay low & not make this worse for himself, right? Whoops, guess he’s not gonna do that either.

Okay, so let’s reset here: I obviously don’t care much for his Ozness. I know the guy has plenty of fans, some of whom are related to me, and that’s okay. He’s got a wall of degrees, accolades, awards, commendations, and tributes that the likes of me will never see, bully for him.

But for the governing body of Human Resources to book him for the closing session of our National Conference? Is he going to guess people’s weight and hand out prizes, load up his wagon and move onto the next town? This is crazy, people, he needs to be immediately replaced, not endorsed by our profession.

Think about it this way: Human Resources, the profession charged with maintaining the integrity and compliant behavior of a company will be lectured to by a guy batting .500 when it comes to ethical behavior. That’s like asking Bill Belichick to speak to a symposium for ethics in coaching.

So when the powers-that-be in our SHRM leadership willingly choose this clown to speak to us (let’s estimate his price tag @ $300K), they did so already knowing the amount of baggage he would need to checked outside of his Samsonite. C’mon people, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck….

We deserve better. Maybe Maury Povich is available?

#RemoveOZ, FOTNation!