The foot bone’s connected to the shin bone. The shin bone’s connected to the knee bone. The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone.” –Dem Bones, JW Johnson, 1928.
For the last two weeks, I have been on an orthopedics rotation.
It wasn’t exactly my first choice to be honest. I usually enjoy being on the other side of the blue drape, but this elective fit my schedule so perfectly, I couldn’t pass it up.
Before I started, I sealed myself mind, body and spirit. You see, I had heard stories. Namely, my cousin who had aspirations of being an orthopod himself recounted getting shoved and having surgical instruments thrown at him whilst on his ortho rotation—ultimately choosing to go into internal medicine instead. Additionally there had been rumblings that ortho residents could be just a tad inappropriate, with reviews regarding their treatment of medical students decidedly negative. So when Monday came, I was ready. Ready that is to have a completely miserable time.
Ortho is one of the most male dominated specialties, both here at Davis and across the nation. According to the current listings on the Davis website, there is just one female ortho resident here. And if you give me the chance I will fly into a rage about the patriarchy and how women make better doctors (duh its science), but then I am reminded of the words of Dr. Berkowitz—the first woman to graduate from UC Davis, who said,
“if I had no male mentors, I would have no mentors at all.”
The ortho service was not where I expected to find mentors, let alone people interested in learning my name. I had so deeply ingrained the stereotypes of this specialty in my mind (sorry Max), that I am guilty of imparting the bias I was so ready to accuse others of. When meeting a woman ortho attending, who introduced herself to me and then said she was faculty, all while the green stripe on her badge was visible—I proceeded to ask her what year resident she was.
But luckily, most of the ortho residents and attendings I worked with are committed to promoting women in medicine and particularly in orthopedics. One of the attendings who is literally a foot and a half taller than I am—challenging stereotypes in his own right that white men can’t jump---is the last person I would expect to be an advocate for women’s health. But as it so happens menopausal women break bones, and often require the services of an orthopedist- meaning that these doctors find themselves as part of the care team for women. I was touched to see the level of commitment and advocacy these practitioners have to their patients. Something all specialities should strive for.
I am grateful to have been included as part of the team, something which has never happened to me in an OR before. I was involved in all things, including holding a leg over my head for an Achilles release all the while trying to look relaxed. Noticing my arms were starting to shake the fellow used one hand to hoist the heel skyward, giving my shoulders a much needed rest.
“Just pretend you’re at Crossfit,” he said. We both laugh.
And with that, maybe, just maybe, for two weeks…ortho was in my bones.