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Prosper surgeon makes history as the 9th Black female pediatric surgeon in the US. Ever.

"It was a surprise to me that people thought it was a surprise because I know the reality of the situation," Bowen-Jallow said.

PROSPER, Texas — Dr. Kanika Bowen-Jallow finished four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school before she met another Black surgeon.

“It wasn’t until I jumped into actually learning how to perform surgery that I met other Black surgeons, which was phenomenal for me," Bowen-Jallow said. 

Dr. Bowen-Jallow is a pediatric surgeon at Cook Children's new hospital in Prosper. Last month, the American Pediatric Surgical Association recognized her as the ninth Black female pediatric surgeon in the US.

"I always knew I wanted to be a surgeon since I was in second grade," Bowen-Jallow said.

It started with the board game Operation. She got it for Christmas from her parents. She would spend hours delicately putting the pieces they belonged, trying hard to be meticulous enough not to hit the sides of the game board and set the buzzer off.

She graduated from that to doctor-themed playsets to pretending to operate on her siblings and parents. 

"That's when I knew," Bowen-Jallow said. "I just knew I was going to be a doctor."

While she's achieved her childhood dream and found a passion and career in caring for children, Bowen-Jallow said she wasn't surprised to learn of just how few Black women are in her field. 

"It was a surprise to me that people thought it was a surprise because I know the reality of the situation," Bowen-Jallow said.

She attributes her success to her village: parents, who pushed her to get an education and gave to her dreams, and a supportive husband.

"I am extremely blessed in that I came from that kind of background," Bowen-Jallow said. "But I know not everyone has that same opportunity."

While the lack of diversity in the medical field is not a new issue, COVID-19 illuminated the disparities in access to care and the lack of trust that exists when it comes to medical care and communities of color. Dr. Bowen-Jallow said she's witnessed it firsthand in the pandemic. 

"When I got my COVID vaccine I took a video of it, and I sent it out to my friends and family because I had been getting is it safe? Is it OK? Are you going to take it?" Bowen-Jallow said. 

Along with providing outreach to her community, she said mentoring young people is one of her top priorities. 

"It shouldn’t be that you get to college before you realize that there are Black people in medicine," Bowen-Jallow said. 

She celebrates reports from medical schools across the country that are seeing an uptick in Black and LatinX applicants in the pandemic. 

"I am extremely happy that we’re going to have more representation within our medical schools," Bowen-Jallow said. "Right now we are underrepresented. Minorities across the board are underrepresented in medicine.”

She said the ripple effect from this uptick in applicants could not only help mend trust but also save lives. 

“There are studies that have proven, when you’re treated by a physician who looks like you, your outcomes can be better," Bowen-Jallow said. 

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