Meet Aletha Maybank, the Pediatrician Changing the Face of Medicine Through Disney's 'Doc McStuffins'
Photo Credit: Twitter / @DrAlethaMaybank

Meet Aletha Maybank, the Pediatrician Changing the Face of Medicine Through Disney's 'Doc McStuffins'

We all know the importance of on-screen representation in media and entertainment, but most of all we know that representation is crucial to kids growing up in this ever-changing world.

Content from shows that children consume on a daily basis are extremely influential on their upbringing and how they see the world. Disney is a network that takes heed to this notion, which is why we’ve seen it rollout a slate of positive and informative television series with characters who have become role models for kids — just like “Doc McStuffins.”

According to MSNBC, after Disney Junior launched “Doc McStuffins” — an animated series about a young girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mom — it quickly became cable TV’s top-rated preschool series and the spark responsible for starting a social movement about diversity and inclusion in medicine.

For one local physician, the work of this social movement didn’t just start and stop at what was being displayed on-screen, she knew it needed to continue in real-life as well.

Back in 2012, local New York City pediatrician Dr. Aletha Maybank — a Columbia University grad whose background includes teaching medical and public health students about health inequities, public health leadership and management, physician advocacy, and community organizing in health — joined two other Black women physicians to form the “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement based on the Disney Junior children’s TV show.

The “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement — which featured Maybank alongside Dallas-based emergency doctor Dr. Myiesha Taylor and Los Angeles-based family doctor Dr. Naeemah Ghafur — premiered on Disney Junior during February of 2013 to kickoff Black History Month.

“Doc McStuffins is a wonderful inspiration and we’re pleased to be part of extending Disney Channel’s role model message so girls and most especially African-American girls can be inspired to pursue a career in medicine,” Dr. Taylor shared as reported by South Florida Times.

For Dr. Maybank, she wanted to ensure this movement was holding the door of opportunity open for young Black boys and girls to pursue a career in medicine. To do so, she believed that movement started with correcting our racial biases.

“As physicians, we take an oath to do no harm and keep patients safe,” she shares in a quote from her Columbia University bio. “If biases are causing harm, we have to confront them for the sake of excellence in patient care.”

In addition to her social activism on behalf of the medical field, Dr. Maybank has also been an advocate of health equity which has been a common theme throughout her career.

According to the Social Enterprise Alliance, she became an Associate Commissioner in 2014, and later a Deputy Commissioner who launched the Center for the Health Equity — a newly-launched division for the NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene that aims to amplify the Health Department’s work toward advancing health equity.

Under her leadership, she was able to help launch the Race to Justice Initiative and quickly made great strides in helping to transform the culture and public health practice of the Health Department with health equity being top of mind.

In April 2019, she also went on to join the American Medical Association (AMA) as their inaugural Chief Health Equity Officer and Vice President. Her role included embedding health equity in all the work of the AMA and launching a Center for Health Equity, the Social Enterprise Alliance shares.

As the real-life version of Doc McStuffins, Dr. Maybank’s admirable work continues to be an inspiration to all the healthcare field and beyond as she goes on to create a more equal future for us all.