HOWELL – If there ever was a time to escape to a magical world where the road was lined with bricks of gold, lollipops were prevalent and there were various friends to be found – it would be now.
The wondrous world of Oz sounds like a perfect retreat from a global pandemic, political debates, and other challenges but the closest you may reach to Oz is the office of podiatrist Hal Ornstein of Affiliated Foot & Ankle Center.
Years ago, the good doctor decided he wanted his patients to be as comfortable as possible and decided to take inspiration from one of his favorite books to set a theme of wonderment and serenity. That is why there are images of “The Wizard of Oz” everywhere in his Howell office of Route 9 North. He has another location in Jackson.
Ornstein adopted more than the theme of the “Wizard of Oz.” He’s tried to serve as an example of what the 1939 film’s underlying theme is which is that there is “no place like home” as its lead character Dorothy says.
To that end Ornstein has done a lot for his community and has served as founding member of the Howell PBA’s vest fund, is a board member of the Howell Drugs and Alcohol Alliance, a committee member of the Howell Senior Citizen Advisory Board, the founder of Miles of Smiles Birthday Club which provides birthday gifts for the less fortunate, children and seniors, a Howell Holiday giveaway volunteer, a board member of the Howell Optimist Club and a past president of the Howell Chamber of Commerce among much more.
“I’ve lectured around the country probably 500 times in the last 20 years, not for money. It is about life management and office management, how to succeed in whatever your definition of that might be and how to give the best patient care you can,” Ornstein said.
He noted the importance of making everyone feel important which is why he put his cell phone number on his business card and he often calls patients to see how they are doing after an appointment. He has a personal mission statement, “every day is an opportunity to create miles of smiles and I trademarked ‘Life Just Gets Better.’”
His love for “The Wizard of Oz” reaches back to when a patient once gave him a decorative plate which he put on his office wall. “I put a little bit out there and everyone loved it. One of my goals when a patient comes into the office is to take them away from the medical environment and to make them feel like they were home in their own living room. It really makes them feel good.”
Patients walk into the office and are immediately transported to Oz with a ceiling painting of a rainbow and a sign at the entranceway to examination rooms declares you are “not in Kansas anymore.”
Ornstein is well known by not only the community but the medical field that includes over 15,000 podiatrists. He received one of the highest awards in the profession and once met the Dalai Lama.
He’s been profiled for his philosophy of positive thinking as well as his association with “The Wizard of Oz.” He’s also an honorary member of the Southern Fire Department.
“The strongest foundation in my life is my wife Anna. My two boys Tyler and Zach, their emotional intelligence is unbelievable. They both wanted to be doctors until they took science and then they said no way we’re not doing it,” Ornstein said.
Front Office Manager Paula Demarco has been with Dr. Ornstein for 13 years and she recalled the transformation of the office to have a full theme of “The Wizard of Oz.”
“We weren’t in this office. It was in the process of being remodeled and we got to see some of the transformation as it was going on and it looked really nice. The patients love to come into the office and see it but they really love him,” she added.
“I never refer to the staff as employees they are my office team. I am very blessed to work with them,” Ornstein added.
Chery Martinetti has been with Ornstein for 26 years and is one of his key people. Most of his staff have been with him for a number of years.
Five years ago, Ornstein grouped 28 doctors together and formed a group which is run at a different office across the street. He is the founder and president of the Institute of Podiatric Excellence and Development.
“I refuse to take a dollar because it is what I do.” He helps those in other states form similar groups. “At least every other day other podiatrists contact me with questions about something. I love to mentor people young and old,” he added.
Through his foundation he founded Yoga, Peace Kula also based in Howell four years ago which is a non-profit full functioning yoga studio. “We don’t charge people who can’t afford it.”
Ornstein’s plate might seem full as but he’s not about to slow down. He has another goal in sight. “I have written hundreds of articles but what I want to talk about now is health and wellness for doctors. The amount of anxiety, suicide and dissatisfaction is prevalent. It is an epidemic.”
The noted podiatrist’s hobbies include reading, life, pets which includes his own dog who is a frequent visitor to the Howell office.
He has a “Wizard of Oz” collection in his own home and his favorite “Wizard of Oz” character is the Scarecrow. “He’s the one who really made all the decisions but he really just lacked confidence.” It’s clear that Ornstein identifies with that character as he enjoys instilling confidence in other professionals, patients and people in general.