Students pose with orthopedic tools as a part of the hands-on Perry Outreach Program on Nov. 9. The Perry Outreach Program focuses on encouraging women to pursue a career in orthopedics. Photo Courtesy of UNR Med

In an effort to encourage more women to pursue a career in orthopedics, the University of Nevada, Reno, hosted the Perry Outreach Program on Thursday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Nov. 10. The Perry Outreach Program provided medical students with the opportunity to experience hands-on work in orthopedic and engineering procedures.

In partnership with UNR Med, the initiative was sponsored by the Musculoskeletal Organization for Research and Education — or MORE — a foundation that builds upon the mission to educate individuals on current orthopedic evidence-based research and perform community education through outreach for those interested in pursuing a career in orthopedics.

“The goal of the program is to educate and empower young women to pursue careers in medicine and engineering,” Sara DePaoli, foundation director for MORE said. “By providing the students with interactive learning experiences and professional mentors to instruct and inspire them, we are working to encourage more women to pursue careers in medicine and engineering,”

According to UNR Med, the program welcomed 20 female university students and 40 female high school students from northern Nevada. During the program, students were presented with the opportunity to experience what a career in orthopedics and engineering would constitute.

“Coming in, I didn’t expect there to be bone saws and power drills right on the table, that was a really unique and fun experience that really showed how hands-on orthopedics is,” said Sally Leong, a first-year medical student at the university.

Not only were students able to experience hands-on orthopedic procedures and techniques, but were able to converse with prominent women in the field.

“Especially being a first-year, any opportunity to learn clinical skills is really exciting,” said Marisa Sewell, a first-year student at UNR Med. “It was nice to have an environment in which I felt comfortable asking questions, and to see that a woman could still be happy and successful in a very male-dominated field.”

In a recent study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and women in engineering in the United States, females make up less than seven percent of practicing orthopedists. The Society of Women Engineer reports that this number has not budged since the early 2000s.

“I think early exposure and changing societal norms is key,” Leong said. “ […] I think slowly changing society’s preconceived notions of women in math and science is key. I think early exposure for women to these subjects will help this along, and help spark women’s interests in these topics. The Perry Institute does a great job with this as they offer programs with high school students as well as medical students.”

The Perry Outreach Program will be offered at UNR Med every fall. Students will be required to submit an essay and application to be admitted to the program.

“As a community-based medical school, UNR Med is excited to team with MORE and the Perry Initiative to offer our female medical students and high school students a unique opportunity to participate in hands-on mock surgery scenarios, creative problem-solving and networking with faculty and industry peers,” Amy McFarland, director of community-based medical education at UNR Med said. “Students walked away from the day with a real-world understanding of what a career in medicine and engineering is like.”

Karolina Rivas can be reached at and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.