Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Robert Zagar, osteopath

‘What has my career taught me? Being kind to people is the basis of good medicine.’

‘My worst experience? Riding in the ambulance in the middle of the night to hospital after having a stroke, thinking I was going to be severely damaged for the rest of my life.’ Photo: Robert Zagar

Born and raised in America, Robert Zagar lived in Central America before arriving in London in 1981. A former registered nurse and professional dancer, he retrained as an osteopath and acupuncturist before starting his own clinic in NW5 in 1986, where he continues to practice to the present day. He lives in Gospel Oak with his musician wife, Sarah Allen, and their six year old daughter, Maisy. “I love north London,” he says. “With the Heath at our doorstep, a rich mixture of cultures, and our close proximity to the centre with all the arts, all we need is a wee bit more sunshine.”

What is your greatest life achievement?
I started and ran a health clinic in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala for two years. I was doctor, nurse, midwife, teacher and sanitation engineer all rolled into one.

Where would you like to live? 
Where we live now. Oak Village is a very friendly place; we know all our neighbours, we have an annual street party, and various other social gatherings throughout the year.

What is your favourite smell?
The freshly ground coffee at House Presso which I frequent on my walk to my work nearby.


What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To love and be loved is what it is all about.

‘Oak Village is a friendly place; we know all our neighbours.’
What is your earliest memory of the area?
Walking into a squat where I was about to live. It was dark, damp, and full of strange but fun people.

What makes you unhappy?
Litter on the streets, aggressive behaviour, and my football team losing.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
Three months of blue skies and warm sunshine.

What is your most unappealing habit?
The list is far too long. Ask my wife.

What is your guilty pleasure?
The natas at Al Parco by the Heath.

Where do you hang out?
On my couch in my living room where I can watch the world pass by on the street.

Who or what do you hate and why?
The people who manufacture arms and sell them to people all around the world: the Blood People.

What have been your best and worst experiences locally?
Best: sending my little daughter to our local school (Gospel Oak) where she and we have met and become friends with an interesting and diverse group of people. Worst: riding in the ambulance this February in the middle of the night to the hospital after having a stroke, thinking I was going to be severely damaged for the rest of my life. Luckily I wasn’t.

With daughter Maisy
With daughter Maisy
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My little paunch that someone sewed onto my belly in the middle of the night two years ago.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
“Dad, you are fat.” By both my daughters aged 6 and 31.

Tell us a secret.
No way.

What has your career taught you?
Being kind to people is the basis of good medicine.

What is your favourite dish and why?
Fresh walleyed pike from Minnesota. It is the fish of fish. Served with salad and a bone dry glass of Chablis.

What did you do today?
Treated the backs, necks, shoulders, knees, and jaws of people living in north London. Picked up my daughter from after school club, dinner with my family, tended to the garden, read a novel and fretted about the fixture list (football) to be published tomorrow.

Describe yourself as an animal.
I used to be a panther: restless, always moving, stalking, engaging in life. Now I would say I am a golden retriever: up for a bit of playful behaviour now and again, but very content to just lay in the sun.

This is box title
Find Robert’s practice here or at 1A Woodsome Rd NW5. Phone: 020 7482 3293

Got a suggestion for Ich Bin? Email info@kentishtowner.co.uk. And if you’re a fan of the column why not buy the T-shirt or tote bag?

  • Show Comments

  • Kourosh

    I have been getting treatment from Robert for many years, not only is he the best osteopath I know he has become a wonderful friend.

    He has also been a great help towards my mothers arthritis pain and allowed her to enjoy life and be mobile.

    Thank you ich bin you could not have chosen a better individual.

  • Gavin Juniper

    A really great Ich Bin from a really great NW5er.

  • Realistic skeptic

    Pity you didn’t ask him to cite any evidence that his “treatments” have ever been found to work. Unfortunately he couldn’t because they don’t.

    • Robert Zagar

      I think you will find that the NICE guidelines show both manipulative therapy and acupuncture are seen to be effective treatment in certain cases of low back pain. They are both used in the NHS. I have never claimed to treat all problems and refer patients that are beyond the limitations of my treatments. I get referrals from some local GPs and treat both consultants and GPs.

      • Realistic skeptic

        But you also advertise homeopathy which is the ultimate quack treatment.

        • internal_error

          Hmm…I seem to recall studies that showed although acupuncture can be beneficial it has nothing to do with “energy channels” etc that are claimed to be behind it and in fact you can pretty much stick needles in wherever you feel like and the effect will be the same.

  • Cymrocamden

    He claims to have worked as a doctor I have checked. He is not on gmc register. Is there any credible evidence that this works.? Be good if kentishtowner put a health warning on these articles or could face liability issues.

    • Robert Zagar

      There seems to be some confusion as to my qualifications. In Guatemala I was the only healthcare worker for 30 miles, the nearest road was 8 miles away. I have a degree in nursing and worked in critical care units at the University of Minnesota Hospital. I was never a doctor, However in this remote area I did many tasks normally attributed to a doctor: suture cuts, dispense medications, deliver babies, run healthcare programmes for this community. I am sorry if my reply indicated that I was a medical doctor. I am a strong proponent of conventional medicine, I use it myself and refer patients back to their GPs if I feel their problems are beyond my brief.

  • Cymrocamden

    Be good to know why a former registered nurse. Seems odd. Not a doctor nor a nurse. Nurses either voluntarily come off register or are struck off. Quackery does not need qualifications so odd that a clinical qualification is discarded. Being good to people is a good thing in medicine as he says. Trouble is he is not in medicine. A good thing in medicine is evidence based practice and audit.

  • Realistic skeptic

    Interesting he seems to have relied on conventional medicine when he had a stroke.

  • Martin

    What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you? “Dad, you are fat.” Blimey – he’s had an easy ride, hasn’t he!

  • Cymrocamden

    If no proof of benefit then potential harm. Homeopathy for the stroke might have shown some commitment. Real commitment to evidence basedbhealth interventions come from people like the staff at the caversham practice. Their reputation reaches far beyond NW5 and they don’t rely on the wallets of the credulous. Please do a feature on real health heroes in KentishTown not for profits.

  • Janey

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted.

  • Jeremy Smythe

    I’m new to this journal – really like it! But why oh why do such bitter people have to criticise everything? He didn’t even mention homeopathy but people went to the effort to research this to be able to post insults!?! “He claims to have worked as a doctor…” Seriously? Guess what I check the Royal Academy of Sanitation Engineers and he’s not on that register too! Just so happens that some people believe in quack stuff and if they’re prepared to pay for it, tough. You can literally find research to back up anything you like…remember the days when conventional medicine gave out antibiotics like sweeties, x-ray pregnant women….?

  • The Troll Slayer

    No proof shuffling papers around improves health either. It does take resources away from front line tho. Best be a bit open minded when it comes to health – even a chat can help some conditions. If want to attack, then lots of really nasty people out there claiming to be doctors but not, robbing people etc. I don’t think this is one, means no harm. Just like in public health, please get your priorities straight!

    • EggEd

      lol, lol, lol….. DoH now trolling !!!

  • Lou

    Last year I hurt my back and had to wait 4 weeks to get an appointment with the Caversham practice. The doctor gave me pain killers, no follow up. The pain continued so I paid to have it looked at privately, scans revealed a slipped disc. I did not want surgery so opted for osteopathy (not from this practice) and I can now walk without pain. I am not well off, do not consider myself “credulous” and find it insultingly linear-minded that you suggest this of people who choose alternatives to what the NHS offers. I would probably be in a wheelchair now and certainly in severe pain if I only relied on your so called evidence based interventions.

  • John Gatenby

    I was nearly immobilised by sciatica 2 years ago. Robert Zagar cured me with osteopathy and a little acupuncture in a few weeks. He is a real expert and a very sympathetic and pleasant man. Highly recommended. I am very pleased that he has recovered from his stroke.