And here we are. 51 years. What is there to say? 51 years ago, BBC premiered “Un Unearthly Child”, presenting William Hartnell as a strange man who flies through space and time, helping those in need. 1 year ago, “The Day Of The Doctor” was released, and now, many, many fans were watching, eyes glued to the screen where 50th anniversary episode was on. And what I’d like to say is congratulations. We survived through ups and downs, we lived every adventure Doctor ever had, survived the hiatuses and here we are, waiting for the Christmas special, with the 12th Doctor. Congratulations for being with Doctor Who with every step of their way, no matter if you just started watching it, or you’re a hardcore fan. Congratulations.

The doctor is in! ‘Doc McStuffins’ reveals changing face of medicine

Drs. Aletha Maybank, Naeemah Ghafur and Myiesha Taylor helped start a “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement.
By Geoffrey Cowley

As TV doctor dramas go, Doc McStuffins is no ER. The protagonist is a cartoon preschooler who provides primary health care for stuffed animals from a backyard play house. In a typical episode, she diagnoses her little brother’s teddy bear with acute “dusty musties” and prescribes a good laundering. The brave bear rides the waves and emerges from the washing machine clean enough to snuggle the boy without aggravating his allergies.

If you think this is generic kidstuff, think again. In the 11 months since Disney Junior launched Doc McStuffins, the show has become cable TV’s top-rated preschool series and, more important, the spark of social movement. Why are viewers, activists and health professionals heralding this sweet little show as the best thing since penicillin, or at least since the Huxtables?

Because McStuffins―black, female, roughly five years old―fills a void in popular culture and brightens a lonely corner of American health care. African-Americans make up 13% of the population, yet barely 4% of the nation’s doctors are black, and only 1.9% are black women. Our health care suffers for that lack of diversity, and so do thousands of black youth hungry for career opportunities.

“The country needs a health care system that reflects its own diversity,” says Dr. Myiesha Taylor, an emergency physician based in Dallas. “You’d be surprised how many people still think ‘doctor’ means ‘old white guy.’ If we can build on what Doc McStuffins is doing, the next generation of patients will have a different view of the medical profession, and so will children of color.”

When she started raving about the show on her Facebook page, her posts struck a chord with other black women in medicine. Within a few weeks, Taylor had persuaded scores of them to add their portraits to a “We Are Doc McStuffins” collage, which she sent off to Disney as a gesture of thanks and support. And as the collage itself went viral, she saw the seeds of a movement. That’s how she came to found the Artemis Medical Society, a new organization devoted to drawing black women into medicine and supporting those who dare to crash the gates.

The society—named for the goddess of hunting, healing and childbirth—now boasts 2,500 members.

No one knows if any of this will change kids’ expectations, but there are good reasons to try. “Where are the real opportunities for kids from the hood?” Taylor asks. “They dream of making it in sports and entertainment, but there’s only one position for Beyoncé and there’s a huge unmet need for primary health care.”

The need will likely explode in coming years, as the Affordable Care Act draws millions of previously uninsured people into the health care system, and the nation needs a broader medical workforce to keep pace. Minority health professionals are more likely than others to practice in underserved communities, and they bring cultural competence as well as technical skills.

Taylor, who trained in Los Angeles, remembers how flummoxed she was when Latino patients would tell her their bones hurt. “I’d say, ‘How do you know? How can you tell it’s not your muscles?’ But I was missing the point. Anyone from the community would have known that was just a way of saying, ‘I’m really, really tired.’ If you know the community, you’re in a better position to provide good care.”

You’re also in a better position to gain people’s confidence. The scars of Tuskegee still run deep in black America, and so does mistrust of the medical establishment. In surveys, nearly a third of African-Americans agree that “AIDS was produced in a government laboratory” and up to 27% believe that the federal government created it “to kill and wipe out black people.” Vaccines and birth control foster similar suspicions, and the suspicions don’t die easily.

“When I talk to black patients, some start out thinking I’m part of the conspiracy,” Taylor says, “but I can usually break through.” Maybank, the New York City pediatrician, describes a similar dynamic. When patients resist mainstream health advice, she reminds them that a black man, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, performed the world’s first heart surgery. And as an African-American doctor, she has the standing to tell a skeptical parent that without vaccines, “our kids would still be dying of polio and smallpox.”

Maybank has come a long way from her cloistered childhood in Harrisburg, Penn. She attended Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate, got a medical degree at Temple University, and went on to study public health at Columbia. She now serves as an assistant commissioner for the New York City health department, running a district office in Brooklyn—and she works overtime as a role model for kids who want to emulate her. Last Saturday found her deep in the heart of the Bronx, wearing a bright red dress and a sleek leather jacket and wowing an auditorium full of teens and young adults from the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

“I don’t always see people of color in my profession,” she says, “so it’s great to see all of you in this room. We need to build each other up.” Over the next several hours, the students quiz Maybank and a lineup of mostly-minority health professionals about the fears and barriers they’ve overcome, the rewards of caring for people, and the qualities they’ll need to succeed.

If Holden and Taylor and Maybank and Ghafur achieve their goals, the McStuffins generation will include many more African American women, and the face of American medicine will become less monochromatic.


How do I become a ... ?

Before we launch into the Giant Chart Of How Long It Will Take You To Become A Doctor, learn some terms:

  • Categorical: a residency spot that offers full residency training.
  • Preliminary: a residency spot that offers 1-2 years of training required before progressing to a different program (usually a sub-specialty). Prelim spots are usually in Internal Medicine or General Surgery.
  • Advanced: Advanced spots are those that residents progress to after a prelim year. Med students usually apply for these programs along with preliminary year programs during their 4th year of med school. These include: Urology, Ophtho, Derm, Radiology, Rad/Onc, PM&R, Neuro, Psych, and Anesthesia 
  • Residency: 3-7 years of training after medical school in a particular medical or surgical specialty. 
  • Fellowship: Further years of training after residency in a more sub-specialized area under a doctor’s original specialty. Some fellowships are fluid and can be pursued after many different types of residencies. Other fellowships are rigid and require completion of residency in a specific specialty. 

Key to below chart: 

Left column = residency program (categorical ones first, then advanced)

Right column = fellowships that can be pursued after the residency on the left. 

Parentheses = # of years of training required. In the case of 1+, the 1 represents a prelim year in internal medicine or general surgery before an advanced residency. Programs without a 1+ are categorical programs. Programs with a range of years include those that may require a research year or those with variable lengths of training.










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