Girls rule at hands-on science event for high school students

Surgical simulations to correct scoliosis deformity, fix a broken leg and repair a rotator cuff were on the agenda for over 30 local high school young women on a Saturday morning in October at Baylor College of Medicine, which was the site of The Perry Initiative’s daylong program that aims to get young women interested in pursuing careers in orthopedic surgery and engineering.

The Perry Initiative is a non-profit organization that holds more than 40 outreach programs nationwide. This was the organization’s first event in Houston.

Perry Initiative

Dr. Catherine Palisch leads an activity at the Perry Initiative event held at Baylor.

The local young women from 9 high schools were selected to take part in the program, during which they heard from prominent women surgeons, engineers and business women in the field of orthopedics.

According to The Perry Initiative, women currently comprise only 7 percent of the surgeon and engineer workforce in orthopedics. Early exposure to these hands-on careers is key to boosting diversity and introducing fresh eyes and new perspectives to these fields.

“I feel privileged to have been able to organize this event through the Baylor College of Medicine and with the help and support of Stryker orthopedics. Teaching and mentoring young women is a passion of mine and I’m so excited we were able to expose so many to the exciting and technical fields of orthopedics and engineering! My involvement is dear to my heart. I wish I had been able to meet similar strong female mentors at the same young age. Hopefully, with yearly programs, we soon will have many more female role models in these careers for young women to look up to and identify with!” said Dr. Catherine Palisch, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor.

Hands-on modules included learning to suture, learning to use power tools that orthopedic surgeons would use in the operating room and learning to correct a scoliosis deformity using a spine model.

“I think the program is very interesting and gives you an example of what happens when you do the activity,” said Nicole Williams, a student at Turner College & Career High School, who took part in the Saturday program at Baylor. “All young girls should do it.”

“This was our first Perry Outreach Program in Houston, and we plan to return next year. We had 6 local volunteer mentors, both orthopaedic surgeons and engineers, and the students performed 6 hands-on mock surgical activities. We enjoyed our time at BCM; the students were engaged and excited to learn,” said Laurie Meszaros Dearolf, program director with The Perry Initiative.