I had the privilege to attend the 2nd annual Perry Initiative hosted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital and local members of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society. I was awarded this opportunity because the Association of Women Surgeons at OSU College of Medicine invited my student organization, Women in Surgery Empowerment Club. 12 of the members of our club attended the event and we all had an amazing time. The event was put on by some of the leading women orthopaedic surgeons in the country who gave talks of varying topics that left me feeling inspired and empowered.
The night before, we were invited to a female orthopaedic surgeon’s home and had a casual dinner with her, some of the other attendings, residents, and medical students from AWS. A couple of the girls in my club and I found ourselves talking with a trauma orthopaedic surgeon who works at the Wexner Medical Center. She shared with us all of her experiences that have gotten her to where she is today and I was in complete shock. I can’t imagine ever being that smart and accomplished, but she was so friendly and welcoming. All of the surgeons and medical students were very friendly and networking with them was such an amazing experience!
On Saturday, we carpooled to Nationwide Children’s Hospital and attended the event. We listened to a few orthopaedic surgeons give lectures and then we dove into the workshop–my favorite part! Some of the topics that the surgeons discussed were the pathway to surgery and the work-life balance of a surgeon. One of the surgeons revealed all of the different pathways and subspecialties in orthopaedic surgery that I was not aware of. The path to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon is very challenging and competitive, but statistics show that they are the happiest physicians and that they have the least regret about going into their specialty. Another surgeon spoke about her experiences with work-life balance. She spoke about how people outside of medicine portray the work-life balance of surgeons as practically non-existant. She said that even though she spends more hours at the hospital and at work, it is not about the amount of time spent with her family but the quality of time. She encouraged all of the women in the room that wish to have families and go into surgery to do it, because it is completely doable.
During the workshop, we had the opportunity to practice two different techniques to fix a broken femur. One technique involved drilling one rod through the entirety of the bone in order to stabilize the location of the break. I was hesitant to handle the power tools at first. I never saw myself as the type of person capable of drilling into people’s bones and putting things back together, functioning somewhat like a human mechanic. But after not handling the tools at the first station, I remembered Sheryl Sandberg’s words in the back of my mind: Lean In. At the next station, we practiced a second technique in which several smaller holes are drilled into the bone, several rods are placed within those bones, and they are connected by a series of screws and joints. I used the power drill at this station and it was incredibly satisfying. The surgeons that helped us during the workshop were very informative and encouraging during the entire process.
This experience was incredibly eye-opening and inspiring. I have an interest in surgery because I love working with my hands, but I never saw myself as a woman capable of practicing orthopaedic surgery and balancing a family. Looking at all of the women in the room that ranged from the statuses of medical students, residents, and attending’s made me even more excited for my future career in medicine. I left feeling confident in my capabilities; if all of these women have come before me and have succeeded in this field, I can too.