Black Doctors See Hope in TV's 'Doc McStuffins'
Title character a symbol of hope and pride for Black women in medicine
Lynn Elber AP Television Writer
June 13, 2012LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A pig-tailed girl whose favorite accessory is a pink stethoscope has become a symbol of pride and hope for Black women in medicine and the daughters they want to inspire.
Doc McStuffins, the African-American title character of an animated TV series, dreams of becoming a doctor and runs a cheerful home clinic for stuffed animals and dolls.
``I haven't lost a toy yet!'' Doc exclaims as she hugs a blue dinosaur in need of attention.
For Dr. Myiesha Taylor, who watches Disney Channel's ``Doc McStuffins'' with her 4-year-old, Hana, the show sends a much-needed message to minority girls about how big their ambitions can be.
``It's so nice to see this child of color in a starring role, not just in the supporting cast. It's all about her,'' Taylor said. ``And she's an aspiring intellectual professional, not a singer or dancer or athlete.''
So Taylor created an online collage featuring an image of the buoyant Doc encircled by photos of 131 Black women who are Doc's real life-counterparts, most in their scrubs or doctor's coats.
``We are trailblazers,'' Taylor proclaimed on her website. ``We are women of color. We are physicians. We ARE role-models. We are Doc McStuffins all grown up!''
For Black women whose own wish to practice medicine came true, the show is welcome affirmation. The doctors shown in the collage are graduates of schools including Harvard, Yale and Stanford and work in a range of specialties such as neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and psychiatry. Taylor is a board-certified emergency room physician.
According to the American Medical Association's ``Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S., 2012 Edition,'' there were 18,533 Black female physicians in 2010, or less than 2 percent of a total of 985,375 U.S. doctors. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Blacks make up 12.3 percent of the population at about 40 million, with more than half of them women.
``When we made her an African-American girl, we hoped it would be a positive role model that wasn't really out there and would be great for little girls,'' said series creator Chris Nee, who said she was encouraged by Disney from the start to create Doc as a minority character. ``What has been surprising is the strength of the reaction and that it's from adults.''
She hopes the series resonates with all the girls who watch it, she added, citing worrisome studies that females start to develop negative attitudes about science at a young age.
Diversity has blossomed in kids' TV in recent years, with minority characters part of series including Nickelodeon's ``Dora the Explorer'' and ``Ni Hao, Kai-lan,'' Disney's ``Handy Manny'' and ``Shake It Up'' and PBS Kids' ``Maya & Miguel'' and ``Word Girl.''
The power of TV role models, even animated ones, is undeniable, said Kevin Clark, founder and director of George Mason University's Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity.
``Because children of color (African American and Latino) spend the most time viewing television, it is important to have programming that represents them, their surroundings, as well as their dreams and aspirations,'' Clark said in an email.
``Doc McStuffins,'' which is produced for children ages 2 to 7 by Ireland-based Brown Bag Films and airs on the Disney Channel and on the new 24-hour Disney Junior channel, recently was renewed for its second season.