Sunday, April 3, 2016

Dreaming and wishing

About a month ago, I went to my first conference with members of my lab and other biomechanics labs. This was not the first time I've been a co-author on a conference poster or a podium talk, but this was the first time I had seen the spectacle with my own eyes.

The first day of our trip, we attended the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting. The venue was expansive, the exhibition hall a literal circus of flashing lights, glossy card flyers, displays of implants and devices and tools, beautiful sales reps, free coffee, free fruit, free tea, free doughnuts, a Jaguar parked in the middle of the conference floor. My grad student mentor recommended a few of the smaller booths to look at, but we scattered to the colossals: Zimmer Biomet, DePuy, Tornier. As an undergrad on the cusp on my medical education, I felt like the smallest fish in the exhibition hall, an utterly out-of-place child. When we met with one of our collaborating surgeons, I shook his hand, and noticed with horror that there was powdered sugar on the cuff of my blazer. Slovenly undergrad indeed.

That afternoon, we quit the glamour of AAOS and went to Magic Kingdom. I watched the fireworks show and heard all those cheerful Disney voices sing about dreams coming true and all that. By God, I made a wish when Jiminy Cricket told me to.

The next few days were spent at the less dazzling, less formal, but still staggeringly intimidating Orthopaedic Research Society annual meeting. After about three years immersed in the same projects, all related to the polyethylene component of the total shoulder prosthesis, the world of orthopedics seemed endless, expansive, and more than I could have possibly imagined.

Over the past few months, I've been trying to disenchant myself from orthopedics, notorious for being a competitive, exclusive boys' club from multiple sources. Less than 10% of practicing orthopods are women. Ortho residency seems incompatible with pregnancy and childrearing. There are incredible obstacles, and yet, it has always been a dream of mine. Attending the conference thoroughly enchanted me back into this dream, and I have yet to let it go.

And so, I think the only solution is the original solution: enter medical school with an open mind, explore all specialties and ask many questions. That's the plan. But, because I started thinking about this theme when I was watching the fireworks show in Magic Kingdom, best remember that to be a Disney heroine, I've got to keep on dreaming and wishing, working hard, and doing my damnedest to accomplish what I want.


  1. Don't let go of it! Obviously be open to other specialties as well (my interests have changed quite a bit since starting med) but don't talk yourself out of ortho if it's what you're drawn to. That there are so few female orthopods is actually one of the reasons I'm interested in going into it, so I can be part of redressing the gender imbalance. I imagine there have been so many capable women who were interested in orthopaedics but got put off because they didn't see anyone like themselves in the specialty.

    1. I've always wanted to be a surgeon, and have been stuck ortho since high school. Since I haven't even begun med school, I can't tell if I feel so strongly about it because it's the specialty I've been most exposed to via research and class work (the mechanical engineering side of orthopedic devices is intensely interesting), or if I'm being naive. It's a mix of both, and it looks like modulating this internet is the wisest way to go

  2. I attended my first conference a few weeks ago! It was the Women in Tech summit and such a great experience (: It's always so inspiring to know experienced women in male-dominated fields! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's