5 women making history in orthopedic surgery


Women only make up about 18% of the orthopedic surgeon workforce, one of the largest gender disparities across healthcare specialties. 

Additionally, female orthopedic surgeons earn 20% less than their male counterparts. 

Surgeons believe that the lack of role models in the field, workplace culture issues and an environment that lacks diversity have turned many women away from the specialty. 

Despite these barriers, there are women who have made a name for themselves in the speciality. Here are five female orthopedic surgeons to know: 

Kathryn McElheny, MD, was formerly a sports medicine physician at New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery and a head team physician for the New York Mets. She was the first female head team physician in the franchise's history. 

Laura Anderson, MD, a neurosurgery specialist, became the first female neurosurgeon in Sacramento, Calif., in the 1990s. She retired in July following more than 30 years in the field. She was one of about 400 female surgeons in the U.S. and 49,940 globally. Dr. Anderson is also among 3.6% of female surgeons who have practiced for 31 years or longer. She was also one of a few female neurosurgeons in the U.S. to own her own private practice. 

Mary Mulcahey, MD, is a sports medicine specialist who was named division director of sports medicine at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Ill., in May. She has also worked at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, where she directed the women's sports medicine program. Dr. Mulcahey was one of four orthopedic surgeons to be chosen for the Arthroscopy Association of North America Advanced Arthroscopy Traveling Fellowship.

Tamia Potter, MD, only 26 years old, is Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University's first Black female neurosurgery resident. She plans to finish her residency by 2030. In 2019, there were only 33 Black women in the field of neurosurgery nationwide. 

Holly Johnson, MD, is the recipient of the Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Foundation's career impact award, which is awarded to women who have made significant contributions to orthopedic foot and ankle surgery. She is currently an orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle sports medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. 

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