Health advocate Dr. Mehmet Oz of television's “The Dr. Oz Show” visited Oklahoma City on Monday representing HealthCorps, a nonprofit organization he started in 2003 with his wife, Lisa Oz.
Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., joined Oz on a tour of ASTEC Charter High School led by the school's founder and principal, Freda Deskin.
ASTEC is the first school in the state and region to participate in HealthCorps, and Continental Resources sponsors the HealthCorps program at ASTEC at a cost of $75,000 per year.
“Our hope is that we can get a bunch of schools in Oklahoma to spread the word that you can control your destiny if you understand how your body works,” Oz said, addressing the student body of about 700 middle and high school students.
Oz shared an experience he said helped inspire him to take action against childhood obesity.
The cardiologist had performed open-heart surgery on a 25-year-old woman who had severely blocked arteries.
The woman's husband brought to the hospital their two children, who were overweight, to celebrate their mother's survival. Her heart had been stopped for the surgery, so all were thankful she'd made it through.
The family celebrated with a meal of fries, burgers and large sodas.
“I realized that I'd failed,” Oz said. “Because although she'd survived the operation, I had tried to heal her with steel, the knife. She needed to be healed by thinking differently about the foods she put into her body.”
Children, Oz says, are “agents of change.”
“A lot of folks think kids are the Achilles tendon of our society, but when you think about it, kids are the future; they always will be the future,” Oz said.
Just as advertisers go after the youth market, so must health advocates, he said.
Part of the HealthCorps program that makes it successful, Oz said, is the coordinator stationed at each participating school.
At ASTEC, University of Oklahoma graduate Ryan Fightmaster is the program coordinator.
Fightmaster's full-time position centers on providing health and wellness education.
Fightmaster, 23, has postponed attending medical school for two years, the duration of his contract with HealthCorps.
Coordinators make the program more effective, Oz said, because young, accessible mentors add a “coolness factor” that helps kids relate.
Oklahoma was chosen for the program for several reasons: Continental Resources' offer of sponsorship; the state's poor standing in health reports; the high rate of childhood obesity; and civic leaders' dedication to raising awareness and improving the health of the state's kids.