Michelle Caird, MD, became the chair of orthopedic surgery at Michigan Medicine in May, and she brings to the role a unique perspective, being one of few female orthopedic surgeons in the U.S.
In 2018, the most recent data available, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported 92 percent of membership were men.
Dr. Caird told the university's Health Log that she feels a sense of duty to help other women overcome the obstacles of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Diversifying the field is an uphill battle. In 2019-2020, women were less than 16 percent of orthopedic residents, according to Michigan Medicine research.
Dr. Caird has directed the health system's orthopedic residency program, where she started a diversity, equity and inclusion committee within the orthopedic department last year. The committee is focused on strengthening diversity and inclusion in the pipeline for students and trainees, especially for underrepresented minorities and women.
Since its formation, the committee has hosted conversations on racism and discrimination, fundraised for diversity, equity and inclusion programs and developed a monthly newsletter.
Eileen Crawford, MD, associate director of the orthopedic residency program at Michigan Medicine, said there are stereotypes that hinder women applicants for residency spots. In the past, some residency directors thought women wouldn't be able to physically perform orthopedic surgeries. It took generations of trailblazing women to prove otherwise.
Dr. Crawford said she sees another patient-based reason that orthopedics needs to have more minority and women surgeons.
"If diversity and inclusivity of our providers are not apparent to patients, they may feel misunderstood or dismissed, and some will not seek care at all," she told Health Log. "That needs to change."