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Shriners Children’s Inspires Young Women to Pursue Careers in Orthopedic Surgery with The Perry Initiative 

three female students wearing scrubs

Three Perry Initiative participants

Female orthopedic surgeons and residents from Shriners Children’s Northern California led a hands-on workshop for aspiring teenage girls with interests in medicine and engineering. This one-day event, in partnership with UC Davis Orthopedics Department, is part of The Perry Initiative, a Shriners Children’s-sponsored program designed to encourage and empower young women to pursue careers in orthopedic surgery and engineering.

“The reason that we all do this is to pay it back and to pay it forward,” said Shriners Children’s orthopedic surgeon Holly Leshikar, M.D. “None of us would be here without great mentorship, but our goal is to show women that there is this possibility in their future.”

More than 30 teenage girls from local Sacramento high schools participated in this year’s program. The students spent time working with orthopedic surgeons Amanda Whitaker, M.D., Nicole Friel, M.D., Micah Sinclair, M.D., Claire Manske, M.D., and UC Davis medical staff. Together, they guided students through six hands-on exercises including fracture repair using plates and screws, practicing sutures on pig’s feet, spinal fusion for scoliosis, rotator cuff repair, external fixation and knee ligament reconstruction.

teacher instructing three female students

Amanda Whitaker, M.D., teaches students through hands-on demonstrations and labs during the Perry Initiative.

A Lasting Legacy

The Perry Initiative was founded in 2009 by Jenni Buckley, M.D., a mechanical engineer, and Lisa Lattanza, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco. The program they created recognizes that strong partnerships between surgeons and engineers lead to improvements in orthopedic implants and solutions to unmet clinical needs. The Perry Initiative now coordinates more than 40 one-day outreach programs nationwide each year.

Named in honor of Jacquelin Perry, M.D., who was among the first women certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, as well as a pioneer in the field of gait analysis and post-polio rehabilitation, the Perry Initiative has reached over 13,000 female students in the United States.

Michelle James, M.D., emeritus chief of orthopedics at Shriners Children’s Northern California, was an early advocate of The Perry Initiative. She recognized that while women make up half of all medical students, only a small percentage decide to pursue orthopedics, and she wanted to help increase that figure. Currently, women make up less than 8% of practicing orthopedic surgeons and approximately 12% of practicing engineers.

“The Perry Initiative workshops have shown thousands of girls that orthopedic surgery and engineering are wonderful professions that are accessible to them,” said Dr. James.

Shriners Children’s Northern California offered one of the first Perry Initiative workshops in 2010, and continued this tradition by participating for the eleventh time this year, continuing to be a proud sponsor and upholding the Shriners Children’s mission of teaching and training the next generation of medical professionals.

Perry Initiative 2024

Shriners Children’s Inspires Young Women to Pursue Careers in Orthopedic Surgery with The Perry Initiative
View Transcript

[Shriners Children's Northern California logo]

Holly Leshikar:

The Perry Initiative is a pretty incredible program. It was started in 2009 by one of our old colleagues, Dr. Lisa Lattanza and Dr. Jenny Buckley. What they recognized is that their two fields had fallen behind the times in terms of gender equality. When you look at orthopedic surgery, only 8% of all practicing orthopedic surgeons are female, and that's pretty incredible when you think about the fact that 50% of people going into medical school are women.

Today, we are at the UC Davis School of Nursing, partnering with our colleagues there to basically provide a hands-on day for the girls from local high schools. So they came this morning, they heard a great talk from one of our engineers who works with gait and post-stroke patients, and then they're actually in the lab right now putting on external fixators, learning how to sew on pig's feet, they're going to be putting intramedullary rods for our femur fractures. The reason that we all do this is to pay it back and to pay it forward. So none of us would be here without great mentorship, but our goal is to show women that there is this possibility in their future. I want them to look and say, "This is possible professions, these are possible fields that you can go into and find a really fulfilling and wonderful career."

[Shriners Children's Northern California logo]

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