Hello Dr. Sanchez, and Her Surprising Alter Ego

Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, Administrative Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and Internal Consultant to UC Health’s Cancer Institute, Cardiovascular Institute, and Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Institute. Photo by Cindy Starr / Mayfield Clinic.

In a recent profile of Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, Administrative Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, the Cincinnati Business Courier didn’t waste any time getting to the subject of Hello Kitty. In the fourth sentence, it announced to Cincinnati readers that the accomplished Dr. Sanchez considers Hello Kitty her favorite work of art.

“I guess my love of Hello Kitty isn’t a secret anymore,” Dr. Sanchez says with a laugh.

Dr. Sanchez, whom the Business Courier profiled as a member of its 2012 Forty under 40 class, has loved Hello Kitty since childhood. But her reason for liking the famous cartoon character as an adult might surprise you.

“I like her because she’s always looking directly at you,” Dr. Sanchez says. “She’s very unapologetic, cards on the table, she is what she is. I like that about her.

“Someone teased me once, because Hello Kitty has no mouth, whereas I’m always a talker,” Dr. Sanchez continues. “You know the phrase, ‘speak softly and carry a big stick.’ If Hello Kitty were a person, I think that would apply to her.  I don’t think of her as cute and cuddly. She’s definitely cute, but she has strength, and that appeals to me.”

Dr. Sanchez herself can’t afford to be shy and retiring as an administrative director who oversees the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and its nine neuroscience centers of excellence. She was also recently appointed to serve as an internal consultant to UC Health’s Cancer Institute, Cardiovascular Institute, and Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Institute. In this role she assists the CEO of UC Health and the Dean of the UC College of Medicine in the oversight and management of the institutes and centers, in partnership with the institute/center leadership teams.

The Hello Kitty character, designed by Yuko Shimizu and first introduced by the Japanese company Sanrio in 1974, came to the United States in 1976. Dr. Sanchez vividly remembers receiving her first Hello Kitty gift at age 6. Fittingly, it was a first-aid kit with a few Band-Aids and a packet of tissues.

She had Hello Kitty school supplies during her childhood and then, in college, kept her continuing adoration of Hello Kitty a secret. “I was shy about it because I was coming into my own as a professional,” she says. “But there was still something about Hello Kitty that appealed to me through my 20s and into my 30s. I finally stopped to psychoanalyze myself a few years ago, and that’s when I concluded that it’s because she’s always looking directly at you.”

It is worth noting that Dr. Sanchez is only one of many adult Hello Kitty consumers. The cat’s gaze, whiskers and pink hair ribbon adorn dozens of products for grown-ups, including purses, laptop cases, clothing, and accessories for the kitchen, office and car.

Part of the cat’s inter-generational appeal appears to extend from its lack of a mouth. According to Wikipedia, Sanrio spokespeople have said that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth because she “speaks from the heart,” and because they want people “to project their feelings onto the character” and “to be happy or sad together with Hello Kitty.”

As Dr. Sanchez approaches her 40th birthday, she is able to finally share her affinity, publicly, for the iconic white cat. And that brings a big, unapologetic smile, cards on the table, looking right at you.

— Cindy Starr

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