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Hands-on science program aims to close gender gap in orthopedics

TRINITY — When J.W. Mitchell High School junior Brooke Kalo attended the Hands-On Science Program for Young Women Saturday at Medical Center of Trinity, she took a "selfie" with a mended sawbone and performed a suture on a pig's foot. And while she had fun learning some of the ins and outs of orthopedic medicine, she remembered the reason she was there.

"A few years ago, both of my grandparents got sick and I helped to take care of them," she said. "It made me want to help other people."

Turning the desire to help others into a medical career is at the heart of the Perry Initiative's Hands-On Science Program, sponsored by the Women Orthopaedist Global Outreach (WOGO). Through a one-day program of lectures and hands-on activities, the program "aims to get young women interested in pursuing careers in orthopedic surgery and engineering."

According to information supplied through the Perry Initiative, women currently comprise only 7 percent of the surgeon and engineer workforce in orthopedics.

"Although 50 percent of medical school students are now female, they're still going more into traditional disciplines like primary care," said Dr. Jennifer Cook, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Florida Joint Care Institute. "People think you need to be a big, strong man to be an orthopedic surgeon, and that's just not true."

"We want to help close the gap," she said.

Cook, along with Perry Initiative and WOGO representatives, host Hands-on Science Programs for Young Women around the country.

On March 8, they welcomed 18 area students at Medical Center of Trinity.

Students from local high schools such as River Ridge, Sunlake and J.W. Mitchell were required to submit an application and write an essay to gain admittance to the program that had students using everything from scissors, sawbones, pigs' feet and power tools to perform surgical simulations.

"We're learning to do everything from stitches to repairing bones," said Jahel Flor, 18, a Sunlake High senior.

"We want to get the girls excited about engineering and orthopedic surgery," said engineer Laurie Meszaros Dearolf, program coordinator of the Perry Initiative, named for Dr. Jacquelin Perry, one of the first female orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. "And by offering a same-sex environment, we hope that they won't be embarrassed to ask questions."

Students learned about various medical specialties and procedures along with the fine art of balancing a professional life with family and charity work through presentations by Cook, Dearolf, Dr. Mychelle Shegog, Dr. Sophia Deben, Dr. Jaclyn Tyo and physician's assistant Vandana Patel.

"I'm interested in the fields of engineering and sports medicine," said Lorelei Chamberlain, 16, a junior at River Ridge. "Here I'm learning how to apply my engineering skills to the medical field."

"Now I'm inspired," said Taylor Eron, 17, a Mitchell senior.

Regardless of their interests and dreams, the students seemed to have a common goal.

"I want a job where I can help patients feel better," said Destinie Diaz, 17, of Sunlake.

>>fast facts

The Perry Initiative

More information on the Perry Initiative can be found at: or on Facebook at

Hands-on science program aims to close gender gap in orthopedics 03/13/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 5:03pm]
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