Perry Initiative Brings Hands-On Experience to Science-Minded Students

February 15, 2016

It’s 8:30 on a cold and gray Saturday morning. They could be sleeping in or texting their friends about the weekend, but instead, 25 high school girls are seated in rows in spotless new blue scrubs, quietly filling out surveys. It is their first assignment in an action-packed day at Acumed as part of the Perry Initiative, a program that encourages young women to pursue careers in orthopaedic surgery and engineering.

The Perry Initiative was founded in 2009 by Dr. Jenni Buckley, a mechanical engineer, and Dr. Lisa Lattanza, an orthopaedic surgeon. The program is named in honor of the late Dr. Jacquelin Perry, who was one of the first female orthopaedic surgeons in the country and was highly regarded as a mentor to both men and women throughout her career. From 1952 to 2013, Dr. Perry received numerous honors for her clinical and scholarly work, including Physician of the Year in 1994 by the State of California and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 by the Gait and Clinical Movement Society.

The Perry Initiative partners with high schools, universities, and medical schools across the U.S. to host outreach programs. Participants perform mock orthopaedic surgeries and conduct biomechanical engineering experiments, while also hearing from prominent women engineers and surgeons in the field.

Acumed has been a supporter of the Perry Initiative since 2011 and has hosted an outreach program for the past three years. During their visit to Acumed on January 30, activities at our world-class facility included three mock surgeries (including practicing their sutures on pigs’ feet) and listening to two female Acumed staff members share about their own careers in science.

Two of the participants, Maija and Karysa, shared their thoughts about being involved with the Perry Initiative and pursuing careers in orthopaedics and engineering.

Maija, a high school junior, has been interested in orthopaedic surgery since she was a little girl. She is fascinated by bone structure and how everything “fits in place.” She and her father have been experimenting with a new bone casting system, and she’s been sharing the results with her mentors at Kaiser, where she currently has an internship in orthopaedic surgery. Maija said she is looking forward to bringing a woman’s perspective to the male-oriented world of orthopaedic surgery. “Men tend to have a ‘heal with steel’ attitude,” says Maija. “I think women are inclined to take a more holistic approach.”

Karysa is also a junior in high school and currently has an internship at OHSU in biomedical engineering. She’s interested in sports medicine and physiology. Karysa also sees the value in bringing a woman’s view to the field of orthopaedic surgery. “Women’s bones work differently from men’s,” says Karysa. “And female doctors are apt to be more in tune with issues that affect women more often, like osteoporosis.”

Both young women encourage girls who are interested in science to research the field as thoroughly as they can before selecting a career path. “Do as much research as you can—you can even watch surgeries on the internet. And keep in mind there are other jobs besides being a surgeon that you might like.”

“Lots of opportunities are out there,” agrees Karysa. “Take a health career class and explore all of your options.”

Program Coordinator Manuela Restrepo says it is inspiring to see how the young women who are selected for the Perry Initiative get excited about exploring the fields of orthopaedic surgery and engineering. “Everyone at the Perry Initiative, from the executive director and board members to our volunteers, is invested in ensuring that these young women build a strong foundation for their careers and believe they can achieve anything they want to. We are grateful to companies like Acumed who invite us bring the students in to get hands-on experience. Together, we are igniting these girls’ interest in science—and that is a great feeling.”

About Acumed
Acumed LLC is a global leader of innovative orthopaedic implant solutions. Founded in 1988, Acumed is headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon, with offices and a distribution network around the world. Acumed is dedicated to developing products, service methods, and approaches that improve patient care.