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Willis Watson Is a Wannabe

Willis Watson, a young boy discovers there are real, everyday heroes all around him and decides he wants to be one, too, in this sweet and empowering picture book.

VIDEO: Author Carmen Bogan Reads Willis Watson Is a Wannabe

Illustration cover for Willis Watson is a Wannabe children's book.

Gramps says, “When you grow up, Willis Watson, you can be whatever you want to be, if you wanna be. A real somebody!” But the cool guys in third grade tell Willis there are no superheroes in their neighborhood and hoping to be more than what you see is just “wannabe wack.”

But when Willis’ gramps falls ill and he visits him at the hospital, Willis sees real superheroes all around him: Dr. Collins, who helps Gramps get better; the lady who serves hot lunches to kids; and even a courageous navy officer just like Gramps. Seeing so many of his neighbors take care of one another helps Willis finally believe he can be whatever he wants to be, a real somebody.**

** Excerpt from the Simon & Schuster web page for the “WIllis Watson Is a Wannabe” children’s book.

The Story Behind Willis Watson Is a Wannabe

Lazarex Cancer Foundation is thrilled to announce the release of a new children’s picture book aimed at inspiring children to become doctors. The goal behind the book is to help find innovative ways to address the shortage of African American medical students and doctors. The book is part of the non-profit’s advocacy efforts to advance equity and access in cancer care.

The idea for this book has long been a dream of Dana Dornsife, Lazarex’s Founder & Chief Mission and Strategy Officer. Her patient advocacy group now works to create equal access to advanced cancer therapies. Part of their work includes developing culturally sensitive cancer resources to support patients of color, improve health outcomes and drive equity. Through its work, Lazarex has heard from historically underserved communities of color about the importance of having doctors and medical staff who look like them to provide an experience that is more comfortable and trusting. She also hears often about how rare it is for patients of color to find that.

Despite the fact that diversity in U.S. medical schools is on the rise, just 10% of students enrolled in U.S. medical schools are African American. Additionally, ONLY 3% of medical students in the U.S. and 3% of doctors in the U.S. are African American men. Dornsife came up with the idea of this book to find innovative ways to inspire children and drive real change. She reached out to author Carmen Bogan to create a story of a young boy who has an experience that inspires him to dream of becoming a doctor himself.

The book is illustrated by Cheryl Thuesday. She has created artwork for various companies and publications including The New York Times, NPR, Adobe, and others. Cheryl lives in the New York Tri-State area.