Published on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 11:59
I have very vivid memories of my childhood and wanting to become a physician. I spent many hours, actually days/months/years, playing “Doctor” with my stuffed animals. I had everything you could imagine in my “office”. Each animal had their own medical chart. I had bandages and other “equipment” to perform procedures. If my patients were “sick”, I could cure them.
I was also very fortunate that my mother, a registered nurse, encouraged my dream to become a doctor. When I was running low on charts or bandages she made sure that I got more. She encouraged my pretend play and made sure that no one diminished my dreams. I know that this “pretending to be a doctor” and the support of my mother played an important part in my becoming the physician I am today.
Recently I was watching Disney Junior with my youngest daughter when I saw an advertisement for Disney’s newest cartoon Doc McStuffins. The show is based on the adventures of a young African American girl and her ability to talk to and treat the ailments of toys. As I watched the commercial and the sneak peek episode, I saw myself. I remembered those days when I “talked to my toys” and cured whatever ailed them. I remembered how those dreams of a young girl laid the foundation for a future career.
Many readers know that we have expressed our concerns here in Coily News about the lack of diversity among medical professionals. We have written about studies that demonstrating that the lack of diversity among physicians is tied to increasing disparities in the quality of healthcare received by many Americans. As the United States continues to rapidly become a “majority minority” nation it is crucial for patient care that we have medical professionals that reflect that diversity. But how will we ever achieve this crucial public health goal? Disney’s Doc McStuffins is important part of the answer.
In this day and age when children of color are bombarded with media images of “success” that are based on becoming a professional athlete or an entertainer, we should not be shocked that most of our children’s dream career are one of those two. I see parents spending time and money (large amounts of both) on a child's sports and/or music lessons and develpment. It seems that parents and children are consumed with winning a “golden ticket” (American Idol) or being the number one pick of the NFL or NBA draft.
What we have not seen for our children are media images that promote careers in medicine. For every Robert Griffith III, LeBron James, Beyonce, Jay-Z and Rihanna there are millions of children who do not achieve career success in sports or entertainment. Lost in this focus on sports and entertainment are great role models such as Dr. Ben Carson and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin (Xavier University of Louisiana Alumnus). Just five decades ago these two individuals would have been household names that all of our children would have known. Parents would be dreaming about their children growing up and becoming the next Dr. Carson or Dr. Benjamin and not the next great athlete with their own Nike shoe.
Disney’s Doc McStuffins provides us with a new opportunity to change our children’s focus away from sports and entertainment. Doc McStuffins will be viewed by millions of small children each day. The children who watch Doc McStuffins will start their lives believing that it is "ok" that they dream to be a physician. They will have an alternative view of life that provides a real career path that is not based on dribbling a ball or singing a song. Parents will now have a tool to reinforce the importance of education and the real possibility of becoming a physician. This is a wonderful and exciting development and we should all be “singing” words of praise for Disney.
It was not too long ago that Disney’s release of the Princess and the Frog was viewed by many in “the community” as a half hearted attempt to embrace diversity. I heard many friends and family criticize the movie for not truly providing a role model for African American children. They said that Tatiana was not brought to the same level of “being a princess” like the other Disney princesses that had came before her. Many felt it was not the uplifting and positive story we had all wished for our children.
After watching Doc McStuffins, I believe that Doc McStuffins is the Disney character and program we had all hoped for. Not only does Doc McStuffins provide much needed diversity for Disney, it provides us with the ability to refocuses our children on new possibilities for their future. Those new futures may end up playing an important role in ensuring the well-being of all Americans. Imagine in a few years there will be another young lady, who will remember watching Doc McStuffins and playing doctor with her stuffed animals, whose “golden ticket” will not come from a singing competition but in the form of an acceptance letter to the medical school of her dreams. Now that is something worth celebrating.
We want to close by thanking Disney for developing and airing Doc McStuffins. You can visit Doc McStuffins Disney Junior page by following the link. Doc McStuffins premiers on Disney Junior on Friday, March 23 at 7:00am EST.