When he’s not operating on patients, hosting a talk show or authoring books, Dr. Mehmet Oz devotes his time to his charity, HealthCorps, a Peace Corps-like program that sends college grads into high schools to mentor students on health and well-being.
Why is peer-to-peer mentoring the right approach to take to teach kids about their health?
Well, part of it is because I have kids. I was asked by their school to give a talk to them once about 10 years ago, and they seemed sort of bored but I gave the talk anyway. The next day, as I got to the hospital, I had probably a dozen phone calls from corporate executives, lawyers [and] other doctors saying their kids had come home that night and had told them things like “If you have a piece of bread, it’s like having a candy bar.” And it began a process in my mind: If we can get these kids to talk with each other in a way that makes it cool to push back against your parents, they’ll do it.
I’m not the one to deliver that message, but I can get college kids to do it.
What are your goals for the program, and what are you doing to reach them?
I want to have HealthCorps schools in every major city in America, and I want to have them in every state. We may not be in every school, and I think one of the things we’re learning is that we can develop [the] best practices from the many schools we’re in that other schools can adopt and begin to use in their own programs. We’re gonna call it HealthCorps University. So either you’ll have one of my volunteers in your school who will teach your kids about health, and [for] anybody else, health teachers can take the syllabus and use it on their own.