When U.S. Air Force Maj. Bakary Jallow, Environmental and Public Health Officer, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), was just eight-years-old and living in The Gambia, Africa, he watched his then four-year-old sister fight Malaria, a disease which kills millions of people every year. Eventually it spread to her brain causing her to develop Epilepsy, which causes her to have seizures.
Her seizures, which occur several times a month, mean she must remain on medication the rest of her life. All because of a disease that could have been prevented. His sister’s health crisis motivated Jallow to take action, so he pursued a career where he could make a difference in the medical community.
“Malaria is preventable, Mosquito bites are preventable, what happened to my sister was preventable,” Jallow said. “Seeing what she went through, what she still goes through, it motivated me and drew me into public health.”
At the age of twenty-one, Jallow moved to America, received his bachelor’s degree shortly after and became a registered nurse at a hospital in Killeen, Texas. Working at the hospital helped him make friends with U.S Army Soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, who inspired him to join the service.
“I wanted to find a way to give back to a community that did a lot for me,” Jallow said. “Coming from a humble background, going to school in America, I was given the opportunity to change the lives of a lot of people. I became the breadwinner for my family when my dad passed away and through the military, I have been able to change the economic status of my family. The military has been a good way of giving back to a community that gave so much to me.”
As a Public Health Officer, a few of Jallow’s responsibilities include food inspections, environmental health assessments and water testing.
Jallow’s drive and determination to make a difference hasn’t gone unnoticed, he was recently selected for the Alice J. Gifford Fund for Occupational and Environmental Health at John Hopkins University where he is a doctoral student. Their professors for this annual award nominate candidates.
“I’m in my third year, I’m about to go into my dissertation, I got the email from one of my professors saying they were going to put me up for it and I got it,” Jallow said. “I am humble about it and I feel like I’m lucky, I’m fortunate and life is good.”
As Jallow progresses in studies and prepares for the rank of Major, he continues to focus on what is important to him and why he got started in the public health field.
“Instead of helping a few people, I want to take care of the community,” Jallow said. “I want to take care of thousands, or millions at a time, I know it’s a lot but that’s my goal and it’s why I got involved with public health.”