TAMPA — The first person showed up about 5:30 a.m. Ninety minutes later, the line resembled something you might see at a concert arena, not a hospital.
But this was no ordinary day at Florida Hospital's Pepin Heart Institute, which on Thursday hosted a visit by Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is as close to a medical rock star as you can get.
Oz, host of the Emmy Award-winning medical program The Dr. Oz Show, was in town giving "15-Minute Physicals" to people who signed up for them in advance on his website.
Hundreds of participants, mostly women in their 40s, had their cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked, along with their blood pressure, waist size and weight. From there, they received one-on-one consultations about their results from volunteer health professionals, with a few lucky ones getting advice from Oz himself.
"It's a dream of mine," said Diana Pinciotti, 48, of Valrico, whose husband Glenn won a local radio contest for a personal consultation with Oz. "We watch him all the time."
Though Oz got the rock-star treatment, with constant requests for pictures and autographs, he carried a serious message.
"The Tampa community is more sedentary than I expected," he said. "Yet there's good access to healthy food and activities."
A big part of the "15-Minute Physical" concept comes after the screenings, when the results are tallied to produce a "report card" of the city's health. Though not a representative sample of the community, given his mostly fortysomething female following, Oz said it can be a tool "to give civic leaders ammo to make positive changes."
Among the results: 67 percent were either overweight or obese, and 55 percent had blood pressure levels that categorized them as having either prehypertension or hypertension.
Oz presented the report card to Florida Hospital Tampa CEO and president John Harding, and the hospital is expected to give the results to city officials.
Dr. Charles Lambert, a cardiologist and the Pepin Institute's medical director, said nearly all of the dozen-or-so people he gave consultations to had one or more risk factors for heart disease, including high body-mass index (BMI) and high blood pressure.
But he said what made the event unique was that each person was given advice on how to interpret those numbers and how to improve them.
"Many people know their numbers, but what do they mean?" Lambert said.
This was the second "15-Minute Physical" event Oz has put on. He did one earlier this year in Philadelphia, and will do others in Portland, Ore.; Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., in coming months.
"It's fun. You get to meet people, hear stories," Oz said. "And those stories educate you a lot."
By 1 p.m., the line out the hospital door was still more than 200 deep, including several people in wheelchairs. Inside, many who already had finished their health screenings remained, hoping to get a glimpse of the doctor.
Among them were Andrew and Tammy Lenze, their two young children and Tammy's mother, Rosemarie Boykin. The five of them made the 90-minute drive from their home in Haines City in Polk County.
"I like the health advice he gives. It's advice you can use," Tammy Lenze said.
"I love him," gushed her 76-year-old mother.
Richard Martin can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3322.