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Department brings Perry Initiative to IU

Fewer than 8 percent of the nation’s orthopaedic surgeons are women.

As a young medical student a decade or so ago, Erika Daley, MD, remembers hardly considering it as a practice specialty. But then she started an orthopaedic surgery training rotation and had the chance to work alongside a woman who, at the time, was the only female ortho resident in her school’s medical program.

Daley remembers that doctor carrying herself confidently, handling surgical power tools with ease, and wearing dresses and high heels to clinical appointments. She seemed to fit into the male-dominated field without issue – and it made Daley believe she could too.

Now, Daley, an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, is hoping to pass these assurances along to a new generation of girls as she and other female orthopaedic surgeons at IU bring The Perry Initiative to Indianapolis.

The Perry Initiative is “committed to inspiring young women to be leaders in the fields of orthopaedic surgery and engineering,” according to its website. Founded in 2009 by a mechanical engineer and an orthopaedic surgeon, the organization holds outreach programs across the country for female high school, college and medical students who are interested in science, engineering, and medicine.

Daley has spearheaded the program’s inaugural outreach day in Indianapolis. On Saturday, May 13, about 40 female high school students from across the area will spend the day interacting with, asking questions of, and learning from women orthopaedic surgeons.

Faculty in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery are committed to diversifying the field and department. In 2022, a record number of female medical students matched into the department’s program, and leaders hope to build upon that success in the coming years.

Daley participated in The Perry Initiative when she was a resident, and she remembers the significant impact it had on her. Seeing more women thriving as orthopaedic surgeons only inspired her further, she said.

When she first proposed bringing the program to IU, she received support from her female colleagues and the department’s female residents – many of whom had participated in The Perry Initiative themselves at one point.

Now, Daley hopes IU’s Perry Initiative Outreach Program will become an annual experience. She hopes those who participate will walk away with the same feeling of confidence she did.

“I think all of us feel a debt of gratitude, that we need to pay it forward to the next generation because it was so impactful to us when we were younger,” Daley said.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...