This badass Toronto physician is getting her personal Barbie
Doctor and poet Chika Stacy Oriuwa’s work on child mental health and systemic racism in healthcare makes her the perfect role model for young girls.
Barbie was one of the most popular toy for young girls since the doll was first introduced in 1959. And while children all over the world live out their dreams through the iconic dolls and spark their imaginations, not many can say that they have a Barbie in their own likeness.
But now the Canadian doctor and poet Chika Stacy Oriuwa can.
In 2015, Mattel launched the Barbie Role Models program, which selects incredible and inspiring women to be honored with their own doll each year. The goal of this program is to address what they call the dream gap – the self-limiting belief that tells young girls they are because of their gender can’t be or do what they want. One way to fill the dream gap is to provide these girls with incredible role models to look up to who are at the forefront of their game in different areas. This year, Barbie decided to honor women who tirelessly fought on the front lines of the pandemic. Lisa Perry, Brand Manager at Barbie Canada, explains, “Dr. Oriuwa stood out Barbie as someone in Canada whose work recognized the importance of child mental health and systemic racism in the health system. “
Here are all of the incredible women who are part of the Role Model program this year:
Like many young girls, Oriuwa had a huge collection of Barbie dolls when she was growing up. “It must have been my fourth or fifth birthday, I got … at least 15 Barbies.” Of all these dolls she says, however, she doesn’t have any Barbie who looked like her or who had the same professional goals that they had at a very young age.
“With my hair structure, I didn’t have a Black Barbie to play with,” she says. “I would turn the Barbies into doctors, performers, and poets, and all the different parts of my identity that I knew I wanted to bring to life one day.”
Oriuwa knew from a young age that she wanted to become a doctor. Her lifelong dream came true in 2016 when she started attending the University of Toronto Medical School. As the only black student in her 259-member class, Oriuwa became an advocate of diversity and inclusivity in medicine. She has won several prizes, is a member of various organizations and associations, and was named the best woman in her class in 2020 – the first female best of the year in 14 years and the only black female best of all time. In addition to her medical work as an assistant doctor in psychiatry, Oriuwa is also an accomplished poet and speaker. Suffice it to say that Oriuwa embodies exactly what it means to be a role model.
Because of her childhood love for Barbie, Oriuwa describes getting her own doll as a surreal opportunity. “To me, being a Barbie role model really embodies the ability to spark the imaginations of young children everywhere and really be able to carry on that legacy that Barbie has of inspiring young children.” She agrees that this doll “is proof that black women belong in medicine – this is what a doctor looks like too” and hopes that the doll can serve as a source of inspiration for young children everywhere.
Although the Role Model dolls are not for sale, Barbie has a whole range of career dolls, including a Doctor, who show young girls that they are can be anything they want to be when they grow up. The role model dolls are meant to be part of a bigger conversation about young girls making their dreams come true by introducing incredible women to look up to.