When Amy Faith Ho was in medical school, peers and mentors often cautioned her on the unique challenges faced by women who work in health care.
“If you’re going to be a woman in medicine,” they’d say, “you need to consider picking which one you want to do: family or medicine.”
This duality of thinking didn’t appeal to Ho. She believed there had to be a better way for women and their families to understand women’s role in the medical workplace and at home. She spent years ruminating on it, through her graduation from medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, her residency in emergency medicine at the University of Chicago and during her online studies for her master of public health degree at UAB.
“I wanted to show that women in medicine truly are superheroes, but also weave in a thread that young girls should be inspired to see superheroes in themselves.”
One idea kept coming back to her: a children’s book to explain in simple words and colorful pictures that women in medicine can balance a career and a family. And when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, she realized it was the perfect time to get to work.
“Everything became ‘stay at home,’ and because the world turned inward, back into the house, a lot of pressure from that fell on women,” said Ho, an emergency medicine physician. “At the same time, I see COVID patients in the hospital and we receive a lot of accolades as health care heroes.” She sees herself as one of many “working moms who wake up kids for homeschooling in the morning, do everything inside their home due to COVID restrictions, go to their hospital jobs and work the night shift, then go home and do it all over again.”
From this emerged “Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero?”, an illustrated children’s book written from the viewpoint of a young girl whose mother successfully balances family and career and who discovers her own superpower — the ability to boost her mom’s mood after a hard day at work.
“I wanted to show that women in medicine truly are superheroes and also weave in a thread that young girls should be inspired to see superheroes in themselves,” Ho said.
“I think all career women wonder how to balance it all,” she explained. “For me, it got worse and worse the longer I went through training; I’d have less and less time, the work became more stressful, and as you advance you have fewer and fewer chances to see how family life can plug into career life.”
Woven throughout “Is Mommy a Doctor or Superhero?” are ancillary characters such as Cosmo, the daughter’s little green companion, whose actions Ho says help represent the young girl’s feelings, and the family’s pet cat. The medical illustrations also are anatomically accurate and depict true representations of emergency medicine-related items such as patient snacks and hospital socks.
“Everything became ‘stay at home,’ and because the world turned inward, back into the house, a lot of pressure from that fell on women.”
The children’s book, which coincidentally published on Ho’s mother’s birthday Oct. 14 and soon will be available in Spanish, is not a book just for moms who work in health care, Ho said.“I think it’s a story for every mom,” she said. “I put it in a health care setting because that’s where I am now, but I think it shows how moms are doing everything for everyone at all times.”