Dec. 9, 2016 | Nearly 40 female high school students from across the state spent a Saturday at UAMS learning orthopaedic concepts like reconstructing knee ligaments and casting broken bones.

UAMS’ Ruth Thomas, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery, helps female school students work with simulated bones as part of the Perry Outreach Program.

UAMS’ Ruth Thomas, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery, helps female school students work with simulated bones as part of the Perry Outreach Program.

The workshop was part of the Perry Outreach Program, designed to encourage young women to become orthopaedic surgeons and researchers. For six years, UAMS has hosted the workshop, designed by the Perry Initiative, a national nonprofit organization.

“The idea is to drive interest in young girls to possibly pursue a career in engineering and orthopaedic medicine,” said Ruth Thomas, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of the UAMS Center for Foot and Ankle Surgery.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, women account for nearly half of medical students in the United States, but women represent only 13 percent of orthopaedic surgery residents.

During the workshop, students used surgical power tools to drive nails or attach external fixators to repair bone fractures, performed ACL ligament replacements, attached cages to straighten spines with scoliosis, and repaired fractures with casting materials. They worked with actual pig feet and replicas of human bone.

The students worked with drills and replica of human bone during a workshop to encourage young women to pursue orthopaedic medicine or engineering.

The students worked with drills and replica of human bone during a workshop to encourage young women to pursue orthopaedic medicine or engineering.

“Many girls don’t think about orthopaedic surgery as a career option,” Thomas said. “Our hope is that this early exposure in high school will develop into an interest that will follow them through college and beyond.”

The workshops were sponsored by UAMS’ College of Medicine and Graduate School, the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, and Medtronic Inc., one of the world’s largest medical device companies.