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Teen girls become orthopaedic surgeons for a day

girls in orthopedic classThere was a time when high-school girls were taught how to use a needle and thread to make and mend their clothes. On Saturday, in a large conference room at the Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center in Redwood City, a group of Bay Area high-school girls was also taught how to use a needle and thread. Gloved, and dressed in scrubs as if they were in the OR, these girls learned how to suture an incision. They also practiced drilling into bones to set pins, they straightened scoliotic spines, and they tackled intramedullary nailing of a femoral shaft fracture - and that was just the morning portion of the all-day workshop.

Together with the Perry Initiative, Stanford’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery hosted 38 girls, giving them a hands-on sneak-peek into the fields of orthopaedic surgery and engineering.

The Perry Initiative is relatively new. It was established five year ago by two women from University of California, San Francisco: Lisa Lattanza, MD, an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, and Jenni Buckley, PhD, who is now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware. They are committed to inspiring young women to become leaders in orthopaedic surgery and engineering, and are now partnered with medical centers nationwide to hold these day-long outreach programs.

Amy Ladd - small Both women participated in Saturday’s event, along with Stanford’s Amy Ladd, MD, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and plastic surgery and chief of the Robert A. Chase Hand & Upper Limb Center. Ladd is intent on improving the odds for women by changing the face of science and technology to be more inclusive, especially with a focus on improving healthcare for everyone. “In my speciality, 4 percent of board-certified orthopaedic surgeons are women, and, despite that now women make up half of medical student classes, that number really hasn’t changed since I started almost 30 years ago.”

The large conference room transformed into a veritable beehive of blue-clad young women, hunched over their projects, asking questions, giving suggestions, drilling, pounding, stitching, laughing. Ladd notes that, “in today’s program, we’re doing exactly the same sorts of things I do with our med students and residents every day. In fact, in some ways we’re doing more because it’s so focused.” She takes another look at the scene and says, “I’ve got the best job in the world. We need to share the wealth!”

Judging by the enthusiasm in the room, and the electricity in the air, it’s not hard to imagine that a change is going to come, and the balance is soon to shift.

Previously: A day at med school for Bay Area teensBay Area students get a front-row seat to practicing medicine, scientific researchTeens interested in medicine encouraged to “think beyond the obvious” and Image of the Week: Med School 101
Photo by MA Malone

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