A trip to the urologist might sound like the furthest thing from entertainment, but it may not be if your doctor is a former stand-up comedian, regular daytime television guest, health policy advocate and author of The Penis Book.
Dr. Aaron Spitz ’88 M.D. ’92 is all of those and a practicing urologist to boot. Spitz holds a degree from Weill Cornell Medical College, but his career path and public persona have been anything but typical of a practicing doctor.
Spitz spoke to The Sun via phone from Washington, D.C. about how his Cornell education led to a wide variety of professional pursuits and projects.
“I come to Washington at least annually for this kind of formal lobbying process,” said Spitz, who serves as the lead representative of the American Urological Association on the American Medical Association’s policy-making body, the House of Delegates.
Spitz traces his interest in policy and advocacy work to his undergraduate education at Cornell, where he studied government.
“I really enjoyed my major and I really found that kind of stuff interesting, and this is that world,” Spitz told The Sun.
His experience with the Cornell Speech and Debate Society also gave Spitz his first exposure to the multimedia entertainment forms he would come to embrace later in his professional life.
“The debate team, that’s really what launched my stand-up career,” Spitz said.
After seeing the success of deploying humor in oral argument, Spitz spent his first summer during medical school performing at open mics and working for a production company that made promotional videos for pharmaceuticals.
Spitz’s undergraduate courses also foreshadowed his predilection for entertainment, as he opted for multiple electives in theater arts.
Even during his time at Weill, Spitz felt the pull of comedy, and recalls thinking, “Hey man, if I get a big break … I’ll just do that, I’ll quit medical school.”
While Spitz was in medical school, he saw the movie Punchline, where Tom Hanks played a medical student in New York who drops out to pursue stand-up comedy. For Spitz, the parallels were obvious.
“I thought, is the universe speaking to me?”, he said.
During his second year, however, the academic coursework became too much to balance, and by fall he had to quit comedy. Yet both his medical experience and ability to perform for an audience made Spitz an appealing candidate to be a guest on daytime television shows like Dr. Phil and CBS’s The Doctors.
“[The producers for The Doctors] contacted me and I ended up coming out and doing a segment on erectile dysfunction and it went great,” Spitz said. “I threw some humor in it, and from that point on I’ve been on that show every season.”
In addition to television appearances, Spitz has applied his humor and communication experience to writing The Penis Book: A Doctor’s Complete Guide to the Penis – From Size to Function and Everything in Between.
“There’s a fair amount of humor in it, but it’s really an instructive factual book that’s got a lot of important, very serious information,” Spitz said.
So far it has been translated into six languages, and is also available in audiobook format. Among the book’s variety of topics, pornography and its influence on the brain and sexual health was one of the most surprising takeaways Spitz found.
“When I was doing my research I was just really amazed to find out how very damaging pornography actually is to sexual function,” Spitz said.
The impact is also disproportionate on high school to college-aged men, Spitz noted.
Spitz also used the book to advocate for a vegan diet, which he claims has numerous positive health effects, and encourages patients to move toward a plant-based diet.
“I learned of the health benefits of a plant-based diet probably eight or nine years ago, and I saw some really good research out there on that specific to urology but also in general,” Spitz said.
Because of his reputation as a vegan diet advocate, experience on television and medical credentials, Spitz was featured in The Game Changers, a documentary about vegan athletes from executive producer James Cameron, which is set to be released on Netflix in a few months, according to Spitz.
In addition to his policy work, advocacy, authorship and TV appearances, Spitz is still a practicing urologist in Orange County, California, where he lives with his wife and three sons.