Las Vegas Sun

January 23, 2022

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Las Vegas doctor among pandemic heroes to be honored with Barbie in her likeness

Frontline Barbie Based On Las Vegas Doctor

Steve Marcus

Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a doctor of internal medicine with Intermountain Healthcare in Las Vegas, poses with a Barbie doll created in her likeness. Mattel created six limited-edition Barbie dolls, including the one based on Cruz, to honor frontline health care workers.

Frontline Barbie Based On Las Vegas Doctor

Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a doctor of internal medicine, poses with a Barbie doll, created in her likeness, in the Las Vegas Sun studio in Henderson Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. The doll based on Dr. Cruz is one of six limited-edition Barbie dolls to honor frontline healthcare workers. Launch slideshow »

Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz didn’t know what to expect when she returned to work from maternity leave in March 2020.

It was on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset — when the coronavirus brought the world to a standstill.

Cruz, who was raised in Las Vegas, recalled the daily 12-hour shifts with little personal protective equipment and hospitals across the country filled near capacity. She sent her infant son, JJ, to live with her parents to protect him from any potential exposure from treating patients through the Intermountain Healthcare company.

“We didn’t have the vaccine. We had to wear the same N95 masks for like a whole week,” Cruz said. “But it was reassuring because I knew that he was kind of out of harm’s way or out of my exposure circle.”

That was on top of a spike in anti-Asian-related crime, a troubling trend that compelled Cruz, a Filipina American, to band with other Asian American doctors to release a video using the hashtag #IAmNotAVirus.

The campaign went viral and has turned into a mission “to create more opportunities for parents, professionals, and students to be engaged with their communities,” according to its website.

“We wanted to use our voices to speak up for this population that may not necessarily be able to speak up for themselves or don’t have the platform that we do,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s work as a frontline health care worker and advocate fighting racial bias and discrimination was recently recognized by Mattel Inc. She was one of six women honored with a Barbie doll made in their likeness.

Cruz has “made a positive impact in her community, inspiring current and future generations for years to come,” a news release from the company said.

Cruz, now 31, was 5 when her father moved the family from Hawaii to Las Vegas for a job at Nellis Air Force Base. She remembers playing with Barbies as a child, which was why she was at a loss for words when Mattel approached her with the news.

“I was just in shock,” she said. “I was like, ‘What? I’m just this person. I don’t think that I’m special. I don’t feel like my story is that unique.’”

Of the six women honored with a custom Barbie, Cruz was one of two from the United States. Amy O’Sullivan, a registered nurse from New York, was honored for returning to work weeks after surviving a bout with the virus.

O’Sullivan helped treat the first COVID-19 patient at Brooklyn’s Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and contracted the virus.

Other honorees are Canada’s Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, Professor Sarah Gilbert of the United Kingdom, Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus of Brazil and Dr. Kriby White of Australia.

Mattel has partnered with Target Corp. and will donate $5 for each Barbie doctor, nurse and paramedic doll sold at Target to the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The charity benefits the children of first responders and has provided college scholarships and grants.

The foundation has also paid for hotel rooms for first responders so they can isolate and funerals.

“Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel. “To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie’s platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back.”

Cruz’s namesake doll features long, brown hair, a white doctor’s coat, blue scrubs and comes with a stethoscope and tiny face mask.

Even before the pandemic, Cruz was busy gaining an online following: to date, her Instagram page has more than 112,000 followers, and she started a blog during her second year of residency at Loma Linda University in California.

It was there that the UNR electrical engineering and medical school graduate felt the urge to connect with other budding health care professionals. She mainly talks about her experiences as an internal medicine physician and mother. But she also posts tips about fitness and wellness.

Cruz said it’s strange being called a social media “influencer” and insists she’s more of a content creator. She’s tried experimenting with making videos on TikTok, but she’s mostly focused on the community she’s cultivated on Instagram.

Above all, she said, posting has been a therapeutic outlet and also a way to pay it forward.

“I really use it to help motivate and inspire others — that they can do it too — because I didn’t have something like that when I was younger, and I definitely wish I did,” Cruz said. “So it’s something that I hope to give back to the younger generation.”