Inspiring women to be leaders in orthopedic surgery, engineering
Mayo Clinic hosts first Perry Initiative workshop
"Orthopedic surgery is a great profession, but many women don't seriously consider it," says Dr. O'Connor.
A wonderful field
Wanting to share her passion with young women, Dr. O'Connor helped spearhead an effort in 2011 to bring The Perry Initiative to Mayo Clinic. The Perry Initiative inspires young women to become leaders in orthopedic surgery and engineering.
"Working with The Perry Initiative, Mayo Clinic can give young women a chance to see how wonderful this field is, and connect them with mentors who can encourage and support them," says Dr. O'Connor.
Currently, women make up about 7 percent of practicing orthopedic surgeons in the United States. The Perry Initiative partners with medical centers across the country to change that.
"I strongly believe that improving diversity in orthopedics will enhance patient care," says Dr. O'Connor.
By hosting day-long workshops, The Perry Initiative helps female high school students build confidence and connect with potential mentors, including prominent women surgeons, engineers and other health care industry leaders.
Mayo Clinic held its first workshop in August 2011 with 31 participants. Throughout the day students attended lessons where they used hardware, power tools and other equipment that is standard in engineering and orthopedic fields. They practiced sutures, reconstructed knees and repaired broken bones to get a hands-on feel for a career in orthopedics or engineering.
"There is a tremendous benefit in exposing students to diverse fields of study, and that doesn't apply to just orthopedics," reports Dr. O'Connor. "Young adults need to be exposed to multiple career options. The more paths they know about, the more opportunities they have to find one that fits their passion."
Committed to education
Dr. O'Connor sees this work with The Perry Initiative, and other organizations like it, as central to Mayo's ongoing commitment to education.
"Education is a core part of what we do at Mayo Clinic," she explains. "It's important to take that education beyond just medical professionals and extend it into the community. By offering innovative programs like The Perry Initiative, the young people in our community have unique educational opportunities. These programs enhance the value Mayo brings to our community."
Expanding The Perry Initiative
Overwhelmingly positive feedback received after the event — from students, parents and staff — has inspired Mayo Clinic in Florida to host future events in collaboration with The Perry Initiative.
"It was one of the best experiences of my educational career and honestly taught me so much. I've had dreams of becoming an orthopedic surgeon since I was younger and today really enforced that I belong in this field. Also, I'm glad you've opened my eyes to biomedical engineering as well. I never thought learning could be so fun and I was so happy to be a part of this program," says one student participant in 2011.
Dr. O'Connor also saw a chance to expand the initiative's work to medical students. As a member of The Perry Initiative board of directors, she encouraged the organization to create a laboratory and lecture-based program for female medical students. The new program will start in 2012.
"We want to help [female medical students] get excited about musculoskeletal medicine, dispel some of the negative stereotypes and myths about our field, and connect them with women mentors who are established orthopedic surgeons," says Dr. O'Connor.