A woman from Texas has spoken out about her experience as only the ninth Black female pediatric surgeon in the United States.
Dr Kanika Bowen-Jallow told Good Morning America that she attended college and medical school in her home state and didn’t meet any Black female surgeons until she completed her fellowship in pediatric surgery in Los Angeles.
"I honestly had never thought about it before because there are so few of us, that’s always been my reality," the doctor said to the broadcaster. "You’re just used to that."
GMA reported that the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) said Dr Bowen-Jallow is the ninth Black female pediatric surgeon in the country. The Independent has contacted APSA for comment.
The doctor, who is the first physician in her family, told the outlet that she had known from a young age that she wanted to be a surgeon but has faced discrimination along the way.
Speaking of how she met Black female medical professionals during conferences in the field she said: "At conferences, you sort of gravitate toward each other.”
The surgeon added: "I was used to being a ‘one of the only.’ Did that make it easier? No, but I kind of knew the struggles that went with it."
"I remember when I was in residency and I had my white coat on and was a surgical resident," Dr Bowen-Jallow said.
"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."
The broadcaster noted that data from the American Association of Medical Colleges showed only 7.3 per cent of students who enrolled in medical school were Black in 2019.
The paper reveals that a further 6.5 per cent of enrolled students were Hispanic, while 49.8 per cent were white. In the same year, only an estimated 2.6 per cent of physicians were Black or African American, the study said.
Dr Bowen-Jallow said that she was happy that she is able to provide guidance to high school students interested in medical school and widen representation in the medical profession and inspire young Black children.
"Their eyes just light up and they get this big smile and they’re just in awe," she 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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