Dr Mona Blog: Behind the Scenes at Dr. Oz - FOX 35 News Orlando

Dr Mona Blog: Behind the Scenes at Dr. Oz

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The first call came the first week of October of 2010. A pleasant voice introduced himself as Bill, a senior producer with The Dr Oz Show and asked if I would be interested in being a guest.

Was this a legitimate request, I wondered? I asked where Bill got my name and he said that some of the researchers for the Show were impressed with my online videos and television experience. Bill and I discussed my internal medicine, occupational medicine and public health/preventive medicine background, as well as my work in humanitarianism and raising health literacy, and what I might be able to contribute to the Show. Then he asked about my availability and I informed him that I was leaving for a month-long humanitarian mission aboard the USS Iwo Jima. We would be treating patients in Guyana and Suriname, I told him, and I would not be available for several weeks. Bill said to please get back in touch with him when I returned.

 I forgot.

A few months later I was working on a medical story at FOX Chicago News. I happened to look up and see a promo for that day's Dr Oz Show. Oh, my gosh, I thought to myself, I never got back to Bill! I shot him an email and followed up with a phone call. "I'm back!" He said he would be in touch when they needed subject matter expertise in one of my areas. That call came on Thursday, Feb. 3. I had just finalized plans to fly to Dallas that weekend for the Super Bowl. Even though the Chicago Bears had been eliminated, I thought a Super Bowl weekend in my former city, Dallas, would be a lot of fun.

"Hi, this is Darcy from the Dr Oz Show. We're doing a show on prevention and we thought you would be perfect for it, if you can be here for an early Tuesday morning taping."  Oh, no, I thought to myself…I'm going to have to reroute my flight from Dallas to get to New York by Monday night. "Sure, I can make it," I heard myself say. "Great, you'll be hearing from our segment producer and our travel coordinator."

If you're not in the business, working with up to 10 different contacts for a taping might seem odd, but, having shot a series with Dr. Phil McGraw while I was with CBS in Dallas, I was familiar with the operations. By the time I got to the New York Hilton on Monday afternoon, I was excited and a little nervous – the perfect combination of positive stress that primes our bodies for optimal performance. I worked on the segment for a while in my hotel room – the producer had sent me an outline and draft script. When I reached a point where I felt comfortable I stopped. There are dangers associated with over-preparing and I didn't want my mind to go blank the next day while the cameras were rolling.

So, here I was in New York City with a free evening. There were hundreds of things I could do, but which one should I pick? The choice soon became crystal clear. I walked to Times Square and got a preview ticket for the $65 million production that had been dubbed "The biggest disaster of Broadway" – the new Spiderman musical.

I awoke at 5am the next morning. I had been told to put my makeup on and that the makeup artist would touch it up at the studio. I got ready and then sat down for an hour to go over my notes. I was ready for my driver at 730am when he arrived in a dark SUV (tinted windows, of course). A few minutes later we arrived at Rockefeller Center where a show assistant was waiting. I met the other guest – Dr. Don Hensrud, the chairman of preventive medicine at Mayo Clinic. We had to present identification to get Rockefeller Center passes to go upstairs to the studio.

(The Dr Oz Studio, incidentally, tapes directly across from the studio where Jimmy Fallon tapes his late night show. I peeked into Jimmy's studio as we walked by and say the bottom half of a guy lying on a couch. I wonder if that's Jimmy, I thought.)

Don and I were shown into a waiting room with a sofa and chairs, a TV monitor and a small round table on which was placed a plate of 4 small bran muffins and two bottles of water. Good think Dr Oz practices what he preaches! I thought to myself. I gobbled two bran muffins. Don and I chatted while we waited.

"Are you board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Why?"

"Well, do you want a job?' he asked. I looked at him quizzically. "Well," he said "We have a top-notch Executive Health Physical program at Mayo and we are booked through October. I need more physicians to be able to see the patients; I just don't have enough on staff. And I ran a search a few years ago and found out that there are only 85 physicians in the country who are board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine." 

"No thanks," I said, laughing. "I'm not looking for a full-time, permanent job. I'll be happy to help you out temporarily, though."

Just then a woman came in and introduced herself as Amy, the segment producer. She had three script copies in her had. The three of us sat down at the round table and went over the script. I had prepared other things to say but it became very clear very quickly that deviation from the script was not encouraged. So we practiced the written script several times. Then we were taken to hair and makeup. I emerged virtually a different person – there is no substitute for having your hair and makeup done professionally, no matter how experienced you think you might be!

A woman came in and said she was in charge of wardrobe. She looked at my sweater, black skirt and black pumps and said she thought I looked fine. I was pleased. Although I had not been given any instructions on what to wear for the show, I picked out an ivory sweater with a brown animal print design on it. Although it was busy, I had worn it for one of my segments on FOX Chicago News and had gotten several compliments.

We were then taken to the studio. We met Dr. Oz, who gave us quick handshakes, in the midst of rehearsing two other segments. Don and I sat down quietly and watched the other segment rehearsals. Then we "rehearsed" our segment – it was more like blocking, since we had an interactive, moving segment, where several stations of foods and other items were laid out and we gave out prevention tips at each station. We didn't speak from the script – the rehearsal was more like "Okay, and then when we're done with this…you go over here…you stand here, etc."

The funny part was right at the beginning when the floor director positioned Don next to Dr. Oz and me next to Don. I thought to myself – That doesn't seem right, it would be a little more appropriate and colorful if I were in the middle. I hesitated. Should I speak up?  Just then, Dr. Oz looked at us and said, "Wait a minute. I think Dr Mona should be in the middle, it should be boy-girl-boy." He looked at the floor director. She shrugged and said "Well, I put them in that order since you are asking the first question to Don." "Well, that's okay," said Dr. Oz. "I think it would look better the other way." Don and I switched places. We finished blocking and then Don and I returned to the holding room. A moment later, the woman in charge of wardrobe arrived with white lab coats and asked us to wear them for our segment. Mine was billowy on me, but she said it was the smallest size they had. I sensed immediately what had happened…a producer who saw our blocking rehearsal had probably deemed my animal-print sweater unacceptable!

Don and I watched on the monitor as the other two segments were taped. Jimmy Fallon was in the studio having a mole removed from the back of his hand. He was trying to be funny throughout the procedure – he probably felt pressured to continue to be a comedian since he was the main attraction – even though it was clear he was terrified. Dr Oz was assisting a plastic surgery colleague who was the lead on the procedure.

Unfortunately, two mishaps occurred while the segment was being taped in front of a live audience. The first was that the suture used to close the incision snapped and a new suture had to be placed. The second was that blood kept seeping out of Jimmy's incision after the wound was closed. Oh, no, I thought to myself, he has a bleeder! Direct pressure had to be applied for what seemed like several long minutes and we could hear the surgeons' hushed tones as they whispered to each other, probably trying not to project their conversation through the microphones. Don and I glanced at each other. We felt the surgeons' pain…I am sure every physician has had unexpected things happen with patients. The difference is that most of then don't happen in front of a live studio audience during a taping!

The second segment that was being taped that day was of the same plastic surgeon removing a lesion under Dr. Oz's eye. Dr. Oz had been hit by a pebble when he was a kid and a residual scar remained. Using a laser machine, the plastic surgeon positioned the wand and zapped away. "Owwwwww," yelled Dr. Oz. "That hurts!"  I was horrified. I hadn't seen the plastic surgeon apply any topical anesthetic, and, if that was the case, I could completely understand Dr. Oz's reaction. Lasers can be extraordinarily powerful – and painful! I thought to myself, It's a good thing he is taping in front of a live studio audience, otherwise the surgeon might have received an equally powerful walloping by Dr. Oz in retaliation!

And then we were up! Don and I were efficiently ushered into the studio. The audience was already seated. A quick glance around told me that they were mostly women in their 50's and 60's. Incendiary devices had already been lit and gone off to launch the Prevention POWER hour and there was a haze in the studio from the residual smoke. Dr. Oz, Don and I sat in our bistro chairs (I was in the middle) and the taping began. Dr Oz introduced the Prevention Power Hour as "one of his most important shows" (he says that a lot!) and Don and myself as his experts. Then he asked us why prevention didn't get the attention that curative medicine did. I gave examples of heart attacks, fractures and cancers that never happened and how it was tough to prove that small day-to-day changes helped prevent these diseases when you never experienced them at all!

We then stood up to go through the prevention stations (I actually had to slide down and off my chair, it was so high). The first station was an artful display of fruits and vegetables and where I talked about the importance of incorporating a rainbow of food in your diet. Did you know that if you eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables for at least 8 years, your risk of dying from a heart attack drops 22-percent? I asked Dr. Oz. He feigned astonishment…maybe his surprise was real…I don't know.

We discussed coffee, vinegar, herbs, spices, hemp nuts, flaxseed, blueberries and other preventive foods. And then, all too soon, our segment was over. Dr. Oz thanked Don and I on camera, and then looked straight into the camera, speaking some final thoughts on prevention. Glancing at the studio monitor, I soon realized that since I was standing next to him, I was framed in his shot while he delivered his tag. So I did the only thing I could do. I smiled. And – believe it or not -- that's one of the most memorable minutes of taping the Dr. Oz Show on Feb. 8, 2011. Standing completely still next to Dr. Oz, struck with the realization that I was in the shot while he wrapped up the Prevention Power Hour.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I never made it to Dallas. I canceled my flight after the snowfall there on Friday before the big game. Since snow in Dallas was rare, I knew there would be no dearth of challenges, to put it mildly, trying to maneuver through snow and sleet in Dallas streets. And I wanted to be distraction-free and mentally "in the game", so to speak, for my game on Tuesday morning. It was a small sacrifice. Now, if the Chicago Bears had been playing, it may have been a different story.

You can watch Dr. Mona's appearance on Dr. Oz here.

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