Dr. George Jallo is a renowned neurosurgeon for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St Petersburg, but his success wasn’t preordained. “I was born in Bethlehem, and my family (parents and 2 brothers) immigrated to northern New Jersey when I was 5. Our family did not speak any English but we learned fast as young children watching TV and attending school. My grades in the first 2-3 years were poor-fair, and teachers had reservations about my potential. There were discussions to hold me back a year, but fortunately I was allowed to stay with my peers.”
Jallo soon caught up with his peers and even surpassed many of them when he went on to college at George Washington University and majored in Chemistry with a minor in French. He attended the University of Virginia Medical School, but it was not until his third year of study that he decided upon neurosurgery.
“I went to medical school to become a family practitioner/pediatrician/internist to provide general care for people, and in particular, [those from] my ethnic background. I speak Aramaic, which is an ancient language and spoken by a minority of people around the world.” However, he fell in love with neurosurgery during his clinical rotations and spent seven years of residency at NYU Medical Center with an additional year in pediatric neurosurgery. “Pediatric neurosurgery is so rewarding because I do something different. Every day I care for all ages who have congenital brain or spinal disorders. I find that the children have no reason to be in the hospital and just want to be home doing things. They are resilient and motivated to get better.”
What’s the most rewarding part of being a dad?
I have 3 young kids, Maxwell, 3-and-a-half, and Nicholas and Alexis, 17 months old. The best part of being a dad is just watching the children learn and do different things each day: Max learning a new word or the alphabet and running around reciting it, or Alexis learning to walk backwards and making sure I see it. Every day is an exciting and new adventure.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?
My favorite thing is just getting on the ground at their level and playing with them or reading a book with all them climbing over me.
What is the most challenging part of fatherhood?
The most challenging part is thinking, am I being a good dad and role model? It is difficult as I see them for a short period of time in the evening before they sleep and I want to ensure that I give them my undivided attention.
What advice would you give other fathers?
The best advice is that your child/children are an extension of you and we only want the best for them. I always step back and try to look from their eyes what my words and actions may mean to them. For example, when I get home I try to put the phone down so that I am not distracted by emails or text messages. Although I may be interacting with them, they see that I am not 100 percent committed to them as I am distracted with electronics, so I try to make an active effort to put my phone or computer down when they are awake.
It is often difficult to balance a career with spending time with your family. How do you deal with this and make time for them?
This is the hardest part of my job. There are many long days and travel days away from the home. It is hard when I am away for days or weeks at a time, as I miss their new milestones or adventures. I am fortunate to have a spouse who really takes care of the children and reminds me to enjoy (each day) with the children. I could not be the person I am without her!
What is something people don’t know about you?
I speak Aramaic, which is a rare and old language.
Where is your favorite place to go in Tampa?
The park down the street from our home. We try to get out every weekend with the children. When we ask them what they want to do for the day, they all request a trip to the park. They run to grab their shoes and are waiting for us at the door. The excitement they have running around on the swings and slides is rewarding.