According to a 2014 survey by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, women represent only 6.1% of practicing, while medical school enrollment tends to be evenly split between men and women.
Orthopaedic surgery is not a required rotation at most medical schools, and therefore exposure to the field before a career path is chosen is limited. The Perry Initiative seeks to provide early exposure to the field in order to build the pipeline of future female leaders in orthopaedic surgery and engineering.
Its namesake Dr. Jacquelin Perry, a significant pioneer for women in orthopaedics, was among the first women to practice orthopaedic surgery in the United States. Her career in orthopaedics spanned more than 60 years, and she continued to practice part time until her death in 2013 at the age of 94. Prior to attending medical school, she was a physical therapist in the Army.
She was a professor of surgery at the University of Southern California medical school from the early 1970s to late 1990s, where Dr. Betsy Nolan completed her residency. Dr. Nolan remembers Dr. Perry as sharp, detail-oriented, committed to her work and her patients, and a mentor to both women and men in orthopaedics.
Dr. Perry’s work focused on treating post-polio syndrome patients through gait analysis and spinal surgery to restore mobility. Even when she retired from surgery, she continued to treat patients at her specialized gait analysis clinic. Together with Dr. Vernon Nickel, she developed the halo, a metal ring attached to the skull that is still used today to immobilize the neck and spine.
The Perry Outreach Program offered through The Perry Initiative offers hands-on programs for women in high school, college, and medical school. Their dual focus on orthpaedics and engineering recognizes that a strong partnership between the two fields is critical for the future development of orthopaedic implants and other solutions for patient needs.
For more information about The Perry Initiative and their programs, visit their website.