Published 2/1/2008
Stuart Hirsch, MD

Advice isn’t gender-specific

RJOS “Guide” has words of wisdom for all

The Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society (RJOS) serves as a networking and mentoring group for the growing and important—but still small—number of women in our specialty. Named for the first woman certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (1937), and the first woman admitted to the AAOS, RJOS enables women orthopaedic surgeons to pool their resources, provide mutual support, and share solutions for problems ranging from surviving motherhood to practice management essentials.

RJOS members, under the editorship of Mary I. O’Connor, MD, and Lisa K. Cannada, MD, have developed the Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery. More than a guide for women in orthopaedic surgery, this well-written text is filled with information for medical students, residents, and fellowship applicants. It is also well-suited for the teachers and mentors who are helping them, providing a resource to facilitate the pathway to success.

Men, no less than women, will find this book valuable, because the pathways to an orthopaedic career are filled with speed bumps and potholes for both genders. The Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery is a veritable toolbox for the sequential transitions common to our decision-making career steps.

More than two dozen authors—both men and women—distilled their experiences and contributed chapters that help answer questions and shed light on the process of becoming a successful and caring orthopaedic surgeon. As Dr. Cannada says in her introduction, “Their knowledge and wisdom is evident in the writings.”

The reader is coached to develop both personally and professionally, to avoid pitfalls, to get involved professionally, and to develop organization and time management skill sets. Take care of your patients and yourself and “become the person you would like to have as a mentor,” advises Elizabeth Szalay, MD, in chapter 12. The authors of the chapter on financial planning—both financial planners—remind us that both professional and financial plans evolve and change throughout life.

Practical suggestions abound for choosing and completing an orthopaedic residency. Those members considering a first job, a fellowship, an orthopaedic subspecialty, or a career change can go directly to informative chapters. The book is well-organized, following the training timeline from medical school through residency, fellowship, and the first job search.

The editors have done an exemplary job in shaping and seamlessly joining the contributions of multiple authors to inform without redundancy or conflicting opinions. The focus is on personal performance and responsibility. Special issues such as medical politics, financial and practice management, pregnancy, contract negotiations, and gender issues are handled seriously and thoughtfully.

This is a deep resource for those interested not only in survival but also in service and the pursuit of medicine as a profession. It recognizes the interpersonal skills that serve the human side of a surgeon’s training and can help one avoid some of the pitfalls while encouraging a balance of family and practice.

Although directed at women in orthopaedics, the Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery has a greater relevance. As Dr. Cannada points out, “Women make up 50 percent of medical school classes; if orthopaedics is to remain a specialty of the ‘best and the brightest’ then we need to create a culture which welcomes and supports women as equal and valued partners.”

Reading this book and following its tenets will help orthopaedists achieve that goal and more. This book should be read with diligence and attention because it is filled with words of wisdom from people who not only know what they are saying but who also know how to say it well. Men and women alike should be grateful for the advice shared by trustworthy authors who communicate with experience, knowledge, candor, scholarship, and enthusiasm.

Stuart Hirsch, MD, is a member of the AAOS Now Editorial Board. Guide for Women in Orthopaedic Surgery is available through the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society for $30; order online at www.rjos.org