Myiesha Taylor, MD, knows how rare it is to see a black female physician on television. As a black female emergency physician herself, she is frequently the only woman or person of color in her group. That’s why she was so excited to discover the Disney program Doc McStuffins when browsing shows for her 4-year-old daughter. Dottie, the show’s 6-year-old title character, emulates her physician mother by providing medical care to her toys. In fact, the show inspired Dr. Taylor to collect photographs of black female physicians into a collage titled “We Are Doc McStuffins”—an effort that eventually drew the attention of Disney executives.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 36 – No 10 – October 2017
Dr. Taylor, an emergency physician with Texas Health Resources and EmCare in Texas, recently sat down with ACEP Now’s Medical Editor in Chief Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACEP, to discuss her relationship to Doc McStuffins and what she’s doing to raise the profile of women of color in medicine. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
KK: Tell us about this great show. I’m going to act like I don’t know about Doc McStuffins. I know nothing about it because I will never admit that I know it’s on the Disney Channel.
MT: It’s this doctor show on Disney, and the little main character is a brown girl aspiring to be a doctor. I’m like, “Wow, that’s kind of cool!” You have this brown kid on TV, and she’s not singing or dancing or playing a sport. She’s actually this intellectual person that’s trying to do exactly what I am. This show—in addition to demystifying the whole physician visit and providing information to children about what it’s like to go to the doctor and little tidbits about health information like dehydration, getting enough sleep, or nutrition—allowed this generation to see that it’s not weird to have a brown girl as a doctor. I don’t have to be the nurse. I don’t have to be the chef or the janitor. I can be the physician. I can be the team leader. Now, it’s like I’m present. I’m there, and the kids start singing the song, which validates the whole thing. So I reached out to Disney because I appreciated the image. People underestimate the power of an image. I decided with some of my friends on Facebook that we would take pictures or I would snap pictures off their Facebook page, put them on a collage, send it to Disney, and tweet it out.
I asked, “Oh, can I use this picture of you?” They were like, “Fine. If I put it on Facebook, then I’m good with it being shared.” So I took the pictures, made a collage, tweeted it, and sent it to Disney. Then more of my friends would see the picture, and they would say, “Well, I want to be on the picture. I’m a brown girl doctor.” Then people would reach out and ask, “Does Indian count as brown?” Then other people would say, “I’m Latino brown. I’m kind of beige brown. I’m biracial brown.” Then medical students started reaching out like, “I’m going to be a doctor next week.” It just got bigger and bigger. Finally, Disney’s vice president of PR or marketing contacted me, and I just knew that he was going to say, “This is our image. I don’t know what you’re doing. You need to take this down. You know we didn’t give you permission to do this, right?”
KK: So you were expecting a cease-and-desist email.
MT: Yes, exactly! I didn’t even want to open it. They didn’t do that though. They liked it. They thanked me, and they flew me out to Los Angeles to meet the creators. I got to meet [Doc McStuffins creator Chris Nee], talk to her, and have lunch. The creator and I became better friends because she told me the impetus behind her creating the show. Her child had been sick, and initially, the girl was a little white girl. Then the Disney vice president said, “Would you mind making her black?” She said, “Absolutely not. That’s totally fine.” When I was talking to Chris Nee at the lunch table, I asked her about the show and asked, “What’s the mom’s name? The kid is cute, but the kid is not a real doctor, right? She plays with stuffed animals. The mom is a cartoon real doctor.”
When I was talking to Chris, I said, “Wow, you should name the mom Myiesha!” I went into what the meaning of Myiesha is. It’s Arabic, and it means “life’s blessing.” I was totally joking with her. Some months later, she called me and said, “You’ll never guess what happened.” I asked, “What? What happened?” She said, “You’ll see tomorrow on the press release.” They named her Maisha because she didn’t have a name before then. So now Doc McStuffins’ mom’s name is Maisha McStuffins. So that’s kind of cool.
KK: That is way cool.
MT: The reason why she did this was because I said to her, “When you’re a doctor, you are just doing your job, and you don’t really feel like it’s that big of a deal. Nobody really knows what you’re doing because unless you’re in public health or you’re elected, you’re just going into patients’ rooms one by one and you leave. You may or may not remember, and they may not remember you. You just go on about your day.”
When this happened, I told her, “Wow, this is a great honor.” She said, “Myiesha, until I met you, I just wrote children’s cartoons, and that’s not really that significant. You helped put into perspective exactly what I was trying to do, working with me, showing me that the work that I do does change minds. It does set up a society to do better, starting with the children.” She said, “That was the hat tip. That’s why I named her after you.”
KK: What’s the Artemis Medical Society?
MT: Some people I knew from medical school or residency and a few that I had met along the way when I was doing the collages recruited me, and we formed this nonprofit organization. We got it all organized, added members, and came up with bylaws. This was a big deal because we’re doctors. We don’t know anything about nonprofits: how to run them, how to deal with the taxes, what we needed, etc. It seemed like overnight we had 5,000 people in this Facebook group.
KK: What is the mission of the Artemis Medical Society?
MT: What we aim to do is nurture and support a global community of women of color, wherever they are. It’s not really “sciency;” it’s more touchy-feely. We had a conference where we brought in people to talk about work-life balance and about not feeling alone.
In my group, I’m always the only black person. I might be one of two women, and then everybody else is a white guy. Maybe there are some Asian men, but there are not many women. There are not any black people. In our professional life, you are typically the only one, and when you’re the only one, you’re very isolated.
I’m big on education now because I homeschool my kids. You want them to be able to dream. With Artemis, we have a pilot program in the Fort Worth unified schools in the gifted and talented pullout where we have our women go and talk about what it’s like to be a doctor. The image of seeing somebody that looks like you or somebody that doesn’t look like you in the role changes perceptions. The work we are doing is great. Other schools around the country have been contacting us, but this is still a pilot program.
KK: That sounds exciting. I am honored to have you as a colleague and see the wonderful things that you’re doing, not just within emergency medicine and to advance emergency medicine but with a much larger social agenda that is important for all of us.