On Nov. 1, 2012, Jacquelin Perry, MD, DSc, received the first Dr. Jacquelin Perry Excellence in Mentorship Award, established by the University of California–San Francisco’s (UCSF) department of orthopaedic surgery in honor of Dr. Perry, who was the first female orthopaedic surgery resident at UCSF. Perry Initiative cofounders Lisa Lattanza, MD, at left , and Jenni Buckley, PhD, presented Dr. Perry with the award.
Courtesy of the Perry Initiative


Published 5/1/2013
Lisa Lattanza, MD

Orthopaedic Trailblazer: Jacquelin Perry, MD, DSc

When Dr. Jenni Buckley and I established our nonprofit organization, we didn’t consider any name other than the Perry Initiative, honoring my mentor and friend, Jacquelin Perry, MD, DSc, who died on March 11, 2013. During her decades-long career, Dr. Perry made immeasurable contributions to orthopaedics through groundbreaking research on the treatment of polio and other disorders and served as a mentor to countless men and women who followed in her footsteps, including me.

I was a physical therapist in the Biomechanics Laboratory of Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, Calif., when I first met Dr. Perry. I had also observed her at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, where she had established the Pathokinesiology Laboratory. As a student, I had read her landmark work on gait analysis and idolized her.

After one of our research meetings, Dr. Perry approached me and asked, “What are you doing here?”

I thought she was going to tell me I was not smart enough to be doing research. Instead she said, “You should go to medical school or get your PhD.”

She was the first person to tell me I could be an orthopaedic surgeon. I had no other female role models as surgeons and had always been told that orthopaedic surgery was for men, not women.

Mary Ann Keenan, MD, who studied under Dr. Perry during a fellowship at Rancho Los Amigos and maintained a long friendship with her, notes that Dr. Perry never saw being a woman as an obstacle to being an orthopaedic surgeon.

“Dr. Perry said that, as a female orthopaedist, you just have to be really good at what you do,” Dr. Keenan told me. “She knew that if she wasn’t good, some people would blame it on her being a woman.”

According to Dr. Keenan, Dr. Perry had exceptionally high standards, both personally and professionally.

“She could be stern and intimidating, but that was because she had very high expectations of those around her,” explained Dr. Keenan. “She was also very kind and humble and had a great sense of humor.”

One of her earlier students—Mark Hoffer, MD, who learned from Dr. Perry as a resident and then as a fellow at Rancho Los Amigos—benefited greatly from her guidance.

“Dr. Perry was an academic surgeon who enjoyed teaching,” he said. “She was a superb anatomist, an outstanding technical surgeon, and a devoted clinician. She had a remarkable ability to teach these disciplines to the rest of us.”

Known for her pioneering work in gait analysis and her efforts to advance the use of the halo traction device for spine fusion patients, Dr. Perry kept working well into her advanced years, regularly contributing her expertise at Rancho Los Amigos on the treatment of postpolio patients. As a 90-year-old, Dr. Perry revised her landmark work, Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function, which serves as the standard reference text for orthopaedic surgeons, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals in physical rehabilitation.

When health problems required Dr. Perry to transition to nonsurgical orthopaedics, said Dr. Keenan, she did so with grace. Right to the end, Dr. Perry was educating others.

“The day before she died, Dr. Perry was teaching her caretakers,” said Dr. Keenan. “She was pretty remarkable.”

Lisa Lattanza, MD, is the cofounder of The Perry Initiative and secretary of the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society.