A Texas doctor is making history as the ninth Black black woman to be a pediatric surgeon in the United States, Good Morning America reports.
Dr. Kanika Bowen-Jallow is a Texas native who has dreamed of becoming a surgeon since she was in the second grade. In high school, a teacher told her she wouldn’t become a physician because she wasn’t good at math. However, she proved teachers and all other naysayers wrong. Bowen-Jallow has made her dream a reality – completing college, medical school, and residency in her home state.
The trailblazing surgeon recalled that medical school was the first time she met another Black physician, as one of only three Black women in her class of more than 100 students. Now, according to the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA), Bowen-Jallow has become only the ninth Black female pediatric surgeon in the United States.
“I honestly had never thought about it before because there are so few of us; that’s always been my reality. You’re just used to that…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. I was rather taken aback by that, but of course, it wasn’t the first or the last slight I’ve ever encountered,” Bowen-Jallow said.
She completed her fellowship in pediatric surgery at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. It was there, attending various medical conferences, that she began to connect with other Black woman surgeons. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), less than 3% of doctors identified as Black or African-American as of 2019. Reports also show that less than 8% of medical school students in 2020 identified as Black or African American.
Kevin Greene, assistant vice president of Cook Children’s-Prosper, recruited Bowen-Jallow to work at the medical center located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, in a town of nearly 30,000 residents. Greene said right away that he noticed just how much Bowen-Jallow connected with the patients.
“She’s a great surgeon, she comes from great training, and she’s really been able to inspire and connect with families. She’s someone who personally wants to provide the best care for every child that steps foot on our campus,” said Greene.
The married mom of two said that for her, it’s vital that patients – specifically Black boys and girls – see physicians that look like them.
“I know it’s the first time they’re seeing a Black woman in any specialty. I never saw a Black physician as a kid. Their eyes just light up, and they get this big smile, and they’re just in awe. 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,” Bowen-Jallow said.
As a doctor, she wants everyone to understand how pertinent it is to promote and provide pipelines for other doctors of color. She even makes it a point to give out her phone number and email address to high school students looking to pursue careers in the medical field so she can assist them along the way.
“Even in my personal life…when I see a physician of color, I find that there is a little bit longer than we talk a little bit more information that is provided, and maybe that’s because they don’t have this implicit bias. I know that they have their own experiences, and they bring those experiences to the clinic, and that really opens up the conversation,” she said.