Program inspires young women to become orthopedic surgeons, engineers

To encourage more women to pursue careers in orthopedic surgery and engineering, Washington University’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will bring together 36 young women from area high schools for a daylong, hands-on program.

The event will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 31, on Washington University’s medical school campus.

Called the Perry Initiative, the program aims to get young women interested in orthopedics and engineering — fields where women currently comprise only 7 percent of the professional workforce.

The event will feature lectures and interactive workshops with prominent female surgeons, biomedical engineers and business professionals in orthopedics. By exposing young women to these fields, more may consider them as potential careers, the organizers say.

Orthopedic surgeons Kathryn Keeler, MD, and Sandra E. Klein, MD, both assistant professors of orthopaedic surgery, will be on hand to mentor and teach those who have been selected to participate.

Duretti T. Fufa, MD, a clinical hand fellow in orthopaedic surgery, played an instrumental role in bringing the program to St. Louis. “Our chairman, Dr. Richard Gelberman, and the whole Department of Orthopaedic Surgery have been incredibly supportive of bringing this fun and meaningful program to Washington University,” Fufa says. “I’m grateful that the department and the Perry Initiative have been willing to share this unique program with the young women of St. Louis.”

The non-profit Perry Initiative is named for Jacquelin Perry, MD, one of the first female orthopedic surgeons in the country. Perry began participating in orthopedic research first as a physical therapist and then as an orthopaedic resident in the 1940s and 1950s. She has been honored throughout her long career with many awards and recognitions for contributions to patients and to the field of orthopedic surgery.

The Perry Initiative holds outreach programs nationwide that reach some 350 female high school students each year. Organizers hope the program in St. Louis will become an annual event.

Some financial support for the program has been provided by medical device maker Medartis.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.