Black female doctors see something to be proud of in ‘Doc McStuffins’

Kids generally hate going to the doctor’s office. A children’s television writer created a new show to ease those fears for her son. The show stars a young, spunky African American girl named Doc McStuffins who heals her sick toys. But the show’s also sparked a following among adults.

Myiesha Taylor was watching TV with her four year old daughter Hana when she saw previews for a new show on Disney Junior. Taylor is an emergency room physician at Texas Regional Medical Center. She said her daughter immediately took to Doc, with her pigtails, pink stethoscope and lab coat.

“The music on the show, when it comes on, she starts dancing around. So she enjoys that, it captures her attention immediately,” Taylor said. “And then she sits there, and she’s entranced.”

Taylor wrote a blog post about the show, and soon received a flood of responses from black female doctors around the country, including Deonza Thymes, an emergency medical physician in Los Angeles.

“I can’t think of a parent that wouldn’t be proud if their child became a physician. And it just lets them know that it’s possible,” Thymes said. “I think it’s genius that they made the mother actually be a physician, because that let’s you know it’s attainable.”

Black women make up less than two percent of doctors nationwide. Taylor received photos from some of those physicians and created a collage with the banner “We Are Doc McStuffins.” She sent it to Disney as a show of appreciation. Chris Nee, the creator of Doc McStuffins, said she’s excited about the response. But she says Doc wasn’t originally conceived as being black.

“The girl was part of what I always wanted for the show. I was excited to create a strong female role model. Disney came to me very early on, in one of our first conversations, and asked if it was OK if she was African-American. And I thought that was a fantastic choice.”

Nancy Kanter oversees programming at Disney Junior, and says they didn’t anticipate this kind of reaction. “We knew that we’d created obviously an African-American character,” Kanter said. “We were thrilled, because there’s not a whole lot of them on air, especially in our demographic of preschoolers, and honestly we didn’t think it would touch that powerful a chord when it came to African-American women doctors. I will freely admit, it hadn’t occurred to us.”

But the fact that Doc McStuffins is black makes a big difference for Aletha Maybank, a pediatrician and assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health. Maybank said diversity among physicians plays a role in improving health equities. Maybank said that as the country becomes more diverse and moves toward a “majority-minority” population, the physician workforce needs to reflect that and children’s programming is a great way to make that change.

“I grew up in the Huxtable era,” Maybank said, “And Dr. Huxtable was one of the only black physicians that we saw on TV at that time, and how inspiring and encouraging and normalizing that really became for us. I think Doc McStuffins does the same thing for children today.”

Doc McStuffins was renewed last week for a second season. That means 25 more episodes.