A Texas woman made history after becoming only the ninth Black female pediatric surgeon in the United States, according to the American Pediatric Surgical Association.
Dr. Kanika Bowen-Jallow told Good Morning America last month that she was eight years into her medical education before she saw another Black female surgeon. Now, she’s among the few Black women surgeons in the country.
“I honestly had never thought about it before because there are so few of us, that’s always been my reality,” Dr. Bowen-Jallow told the outlet. “You’re just used to that.”
A native of Texas, Bowen-Jallow attended college, medical school, and completed her residency in her home state. Becoming a surgeon for Bowen-Jallow had been a dream since the second grade, making her the first doctor in her family, though the journey hasn’t always been easy.
“I remember when I was in residency and I had my white coat on and was a surgical resident. And a woman looked at me and asked if I was there to change the sheets,” Bowen-Jallow recalled. “I was rather taken aback by that, but of course it wasn’t the first or the last slight I’ve ever encountered.”
While a record number of Black and Latino students applied to medical school last year, less than three percent of doctors in the US identified as Black or African American the year before.
In her medical school class of over 100 students, Bowen-Jallow was one of just three Black women.
The lack of diversity in Bowen-Jallow’s field is evident in her interactions with patients at Cook Children’s Pediatric Surgery Center where she works in Prosper, Texas, near the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“I know it’s the first time they’re seeing a Black woman in any speciality,” she said of many of her patients. “I never saw a Black physician as a kid.”
When she works with Black children, their reaction to her is especially noticeable.
“Their eyes just light up and they get this big smile and they’re just in awe,” Bowen-Jallow said. “For me, I love it. I think it’s wonderful because I have small kids and i know that what we do and what we say to them at a young age will impact them when they grow up.”
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