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Orthopedic instructional program resonates with Woods student

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published February 25, 2015

 Berkley High School junior Anna Treppa, left, and Renee Odom, right, from Divine Child High School, practice intramedullary nailing during an orthopedic surgery and engineering program put on by the Perry Initiative Jan. 17 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Berkley High School junior Anna Treppa, left, and Renee Odom, right, from Divine Child High School, practice intramedullary nailing during an orthopedic surgery and engineering program put on by the Perry Initiative Jan. 17 at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Photo submitted by Beaumont Hospital

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ROYAL OAK — For a long time, Huntington Woods resident and Berkley High School junior Anna Treppa said she wanted to be a teacher.

However, over time, Treppa, 16, started talking with family friends who were in the medical field, and more and more it looked like something interesting.

“I used to want to be a teacher, but my mom has a friend who is a physical therapist, and my aunt works in a hospital, in the sales department, so I was just getting feedback from people who work in a hospital,” Treppa said. “I started getting more interested and started looking into radiology and physical therapy and things like that, and have been thinking about it for a few years now.”

One program that didn’t really cross Treppa’s mind was orthopedics, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Perry Initiative Co-Founder and Executive Director Jenni Buckley.

The Perry Initiative, which started six years ago, helps to educate young women, mostly in high school, about careers in orthopedics, whether it is as a surgeon or engineer. With the field heavily populated by men, Buckley said she and her team want to reach young women like Treppa and show them the world of orthopedics.

On Jan. 17, the Perry Initiative held a daylong program at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, and Treppa was one of about 40 local students invited to participate.

“The Perry Initiative is a nonprofit organization that goes around the country providing a daylong exposure program for high school students, women, to get them interested in orthopedics,” Buckley said. “Orthopedics is not very diverse and it has a small-enough (female) population that we feel we can really change the percentage of women in this field, and so far, we have been tracking really well. A lot of our women who have been in this program are in the pipeline as engineers or medical students.”

The idea for the Perry Initiative came when Buckley was working as a medical engineer in a San Francisco laboratory. Buckley said she found it hard to hire other women engineers and eventually, when she found another female partner, the two went on to start the Perry Initiative together.

The program began with a few students coming into the lab in San Francisco, and has grown into a  program that reaches students around the country. During the program, students get a chance to do several mock medical procedures, such as fixing a broken femur, casting and suturing, and solving a case with creative and engineering solutions.

“We believe that hands-on exposure is really the key to get people interested in this field,” Buckley said. “We try to minimize the amount of lecture, quite honestly, and provide about four hours of hands-on mock surgery.”

When looking for potential students, the Perry Initiative blankets the local area — in this case the high schools around Beaumont Hospital — and looks for students who are interested in the medical field, regardless of grade point average. This year, Buckley said, they received about 80 applications and could only accept 40 for the free program.

For Treppa, taking advantage of the Perry Initiative allowed her to explore her options for the future.

“I really want to go into the medical field, but I’m not positive where I wanted to go within that,” she said. “I never really thought about going into orthopedic surgery, and I didn’t necessarily want to be a surgeon, but it was not as gross as I thought it was going to be, so now I am leaning towards that.”

The goal when the students leave the program, Buckley said, is to provide the exposure and knowledge the students need to consider orthopedics as a career option.

“We want to drive what they are learning in the classroom about science and math and get them interested in engineering or orthopedic surgery,” she said. “But it is also female empowerment and mentoring as they get to talk to women in this field and get that mentoring.”

And at least for one student, the program did exactly what it was designed to do.

“This was probably one of the best experiences I have had, and I really liked the program,” Treppa said. “I had obviously heard of orthopedic surgery, but now I have a better understanding of what they do and the engineering behind it. I got a more in-depth look and more knowledge about the the field.”

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