SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A program teaching a room full of teenaged girls to work with power tools and thousand dollar screws as a way to connect to careers in science is the brainchild of this week’s Jefferson Award winner.
Dr. Lisa Lattanza helped start a hands-on program to get girls thinking about two male-dominated specialties they probably never considered before.
More than 40 girls have stabilized mock fractures, alleviated scoliosis with screws, and sutured pig’s feet as part of this year’s program.
The high school students performed simulated surgeries not usually taught unitl medical school, thanks to Lisa Lattanza, an orthopaedic surgeon at the University of California at San Francisco.
“We want to build confidence. We want them to see what great careers these are for women,” said Dr. Lattanza.
In a recent free one-day workshop at UCSF, Dr. Latttanza introduced girls to careers in engineering and orthopaedic surgery, where women are outnumbered more than nine to one.
“We’re doing worse than any subspecialty, except neurosurgery, in attracting women,” said Dr. Lattanza.
The workshop was hosted by the Perry Initiative, the nonprofit Lisa founded with colleague Jenni Buckley in 2009.
They named it after Dr. Jacquelin Perry, one of America’s first female orthopedic surgeons.
In five years, the Perry program has expanded from its UCSF roots to 1,500 girls in 27 U.S. cities.
“We want women to see you don’t have to be a big jock football player to be an orthopaedic surgeon,” said Dr. Lattanza.
16-year-old Rani Mavram got the message.
“We have engineering classes, we have science classes, we have math classes. You’re never going to find the lab that fits all these together and helps give you this kind of exposure,” said Mavram.
Dr. Lattanza says 83 percent of the girls who go through the workshop end up majoring in science, technology, engineering and math in college.
Felicia Hoehnle says her Perry experience five years ago inspired her to go into orthopaedic surgery.
“It really opened my eyes, to like, ‘Wow! You can really change lives and make a difference’ especially with orthopaedics,” Hoehnle said.
“It revitalizes me every time I do a program and I see that click in someone, one of the girls, where they go ‘Yeah, this is for me,'” Dr. Lattanza reflected.
So for inspiring girls to explore careers in orthopaedic surgery and engineering, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dr. Lisa Lattanza.