Would-be Doctors See Future More Clearly

Scottish Rite-hosted program introduces teen girls to orthopedic surgery

By: Karen Chaney

Participants perform mock surgical simulations, including attaching an external fixator. 

Those prone to think, “My doctor looks like they are still in high school,” could have encountered a confirming sight at Scottish Rite for Children in October.

But the 40 scrubs-wearing youthful females walking the halls weren’t actual doctors.

They were high schoolers participating in a Perry Outreach Program introducing girls to orthopedic surgery via hands-on experiences.

Scottish Rite hosts the program annually. 

Pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Amy McIntosh estimated that 100 girls apply for the free educational program, but only 40 are accepted. 

Applicants write short essays about their interest in participating in the program and their long- and short-term goals.  

Program participant Nichole Ayodele, a 17-year-old high school senior, plans on becoming a biomedical engineer.  

“Being here is confirming that for me, and I’m also learning about more things in the medical field,” Nichole said.

McIntosh recalled how when she was 18 years old and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, an orthopedic exam course proved pivotal in determining her career path. 

“I wish there had been a program like this for me when I was in high school or medical school,” she said. “I feel like my path to orthopedics was like braille, just finding my way in the dark. There wasn’t a lot of guidance or mentorship. I’m hoping to change that for future women.”

Throughout the day-long program, the girls rotated through various stations, including suturing lacerations on pigs’ feet, mock surgical simulations using bones made of sawdust, ultrasound technology, and more. 

“They were cutting the bone with an oscillating saw; they were drilling just like we do in the operating room,” McIntosh said. “A lot of young women have never held or used a power tool before. We’re trying to get them more comfortable with the uncomfortable and opening their mind to a lot of different career paths in medicine.”

Upon completion of the surgical simulation station, Nichole confirmed that the goals McIntosh stated were achieved.

Nichole Ayodele (fourth from left) uses power tools during a surgical simulation with guidance from Dr. Amy L. McIntosh (second from left).

“We just … fixed a fracture temporarily,” she excitedly said. “It was interesting seeing the mechanical engineering that went into that. We used drills and saws. I had never used those tools before; it makes me happy to say I’ve used them now. I didn’t know they used those tools in surgery.”

Female orthopedics and engineering experts shared their history with the students during the program. 

“I don’t understand why 50% of medical students are women, but only 6% of practicing orthopedic surgeons are women,” McIntosh said. “If you can see someone you are like in some way, you can open your mind to the concept that maybe you can be that person.”

Although Nichole is still determining which direction her career path will take, she is looking forward to being the first person in her family to pursue a career in a STEM field. 

“I really just want to see what is out there,” she said. “No knowledge is wasted.”

Share this article...
Email this to someone
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.