Exactech Product Development Engineer Caitlin DiGeorgio was one of eight female orthopaedics professionals who traveled to Detroit, Mich., to spend the day volunteering with the Perry Outreach Program and mentoring female high school students as they explored careers in orthopaedic surgery and engineering.
According to a 2014 survey from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, women make up only 6.1 percent of fully accredited, practicing orthopaedic surgeons, and 12.4 percent of engineering school faculty. The Perry Initiative, which hosts Perry Outreach Program events around the nation, was founded in 2009 with a mission to inspire young women to be leaders in the fields of orthopaedic surgery and engineering. The program partners with medical centers, universities and high schools across the country to address the enormous inequality.
When Caitlin found out Exactech was a sponsor for the Perry Outreach Program at Henry Ford Hospital and that the program was looking for volunteers, she jumped on board, inspired by her own experiences as a woman engineer.
After taking a few engineering courses in college, Caitlin fell in love with the field and became the first woman in a family of male engineers to follow her passion for engineering.
women make up only 6.1 percent of fully accredited, practicing orthopaedic surgeons
women make up only 12.4 percent of engineering school faculty
She said she feels this program is crucial because it exposes young women to the realities of orthopaedic surgery and engineering, something many are never privy to.
“I always talked to my grandpa and uncle, trying to figure out what engineers did,” Caitlin said. “I just didn’t understand it, even in college, and it’s so important to understand the career to even consider if engineering could be a good fit for you.”
The program started with an orientation before diving into Caitlin’s morning lecture on the field of engineering. The attendees couldn’t have been more excited to start their day.
“I’m looking forward to all of it. It’s a dream come true,” said Isabelle, a program attendee and sophomore in high school, “I really want to be an orthopaedic surgeon!”
Magdalene, also a sophomore, shared similar sentiments, after driving more than 2-and-a-half hours each way to attend the event. She said she’d never heard of anything like it.
The girls participated in modules covering basic orthopaedic techniques, like screwing rods into bone, casting and suturing, and learned about orthopaedics over lunch, in a lecture delivered by Stephanie Muh, M.D. Hands-on workshops covered the intermedullary nail, knee ligament reconstruction and complex fracture in the afternoon.
Before heading home, the girls got a chance to ask questions of the volunteers and then received certificates commemorating their participation in the program. Isabelle, ever enthusiastic after seven hours at work, felt that her dreams for the program had been realized.
“I loved everything, I really did. I can’t narrow it down. Just — everything,” she said.
Exactech has career opportunities throughout the year. Openings can be found at exac.com/careers.