Published 6/7/2024
Kate Gerull, MD; Anna Miller, MD, FAAOS, FACS

Virtual Fireside Chat Series Celebrates the Empowerment of Women in Orthopaedics

Speakers also advocate for continued changes and improvements

The Women in Orthopedics Virtual Fireside Chat Series is a free, monthly webinar that serves to enhance surgeons’ professional development and build community among women orthopaedic surgeons. Beyond the known underrepresentation of women in orthopaedics, there is a particular paucity of women in senior leadership roles in the field. This gap is common with a “leaky pathway” phenomenon, in which talented women are under-promoted or experience frank attrition from orthopaedic careers. This phenomenon unfortunately results in gaps in not only visible role models for junior faculty and trainees but also potential mentors, contributing to women’s experiences of isolation in the workforce. As women attempt to navigate complex dynamics in workplace politics, clinical practice considerations, and their personal lives, this lack of mentorship from senior women is a potentially significant detriment to their career advancement.

We created the idea for the Fireside Chat series when we were brainstorming ways to increase access for trainees and junior faculty in our orthopaedic department at Washington University in St. Louis to women as senior surgeon mentors. Once we came up with the idea, we realized that it would be beneficial for women across the country, given that many departments nationally are affected by the “leaky pathway” phenomenon. Our aim with the Fireside Chat Series is to create an intentional space for discussion, skills development, and relationship building—all focused on the lived experiences of women in orthopaedics. We firmly believe in the power of women supporting women throughout their career journeys, and this principle has been the driving force behind the series. By creating the Fireside Chat Series, we wanted to create a platform with cross-generational mentorship opportunities that break down institutional silos to allow women across institutions to learn and grow together.

Kate Gerull, MD
Anna Miller, MD, FAAOS, FACS

When planning the series, we surveyed female faculty and trainees in our department to elucidate their topics of interest as well as which prominent female speakers they wanted to hear from. After incorporating feedback, we finalized a yearlong program consisting of monthly webinar sessions on an array of topics, with the goal of building skills in the domains of academic and clinical leadership and professional development.

Each monthly fireside chat includes 20 to 30 minutes of prepared remarks from the speaker, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of open discussion with the audience. The most unique part of this series is the built-in time for open discussion. The intentional time and space for discussion among participants and speakers are critical to offer insights into pressing problems and workplace challenges and build personal relationships. This discussion forum is designed to resemble a casual conversation among colleagues, where participants feel comfortable asking challenging questions so that everyone on the webinar (as well as those who listen to the recording at a later date) can learn from each other’s experiences.

The level of participation and engagement in the first 5 months of the series has been encouraging. So far, sessions have covered important and timely topics, including how to effectively cultivate mentoring relationships, how to become established as a leader in academic medicine, how to effectively lead OR teams, how to navigate clinical complications and poor outcomes, and how to build negotiation skills. The deep insights shared by the speakers and the thoughtful questions posed by participants have been impressive. Through the series, we hope to create a national network of support for women within orthopaedics throughout their careers as women build upon each other’s insights and lived experiences.

To fund the series, we applied for and received a grant from the AAOS IDEA Grant Program® (see the Sidebar below for more information on that program). We were awarded a $5,000 grant, which has been primarily used to fund honoraria for speakers in the series. It is paramount to compensate speakers for their time and expertise, particularly given that the “minority tax” is pervasive in academic medicine. The “minority tax” is a phenomenon in which members of an underrepresented group (such as female orthopaedic surgeons) bear a disproportionate burden of representing their underrepresented group in activities, such as hospital committees or mentoring. This results in less time for academic or clinical pursuits that are tied to promotion or clinical productivity. Compensating the speakers for their work is a way to tangibly acknowledge their contributions to the series and encourage other event organizers to do the same whenever feasible.

For those who are interested in attending future Women in Orthopedics Virtual Fireside Chat sessions, sign up for the listserv by scanning the QR code in the sidebar below or visiting rb.gy/izfe27. Although the session topics were chosen to address critical issues for female orthopaedic surgeons, participants of all genders are welcome to attend. For those unable to attend live sessions, recordings are available on the Washington University in St. Louis Department of Orthopedics website.

Sessions will run monthly through December as listed below. To share ideas for future topics or speakers or to ask any questions about the series, contact Dr. Gerull at kgerull@wustl.edu.

Kate Gerull, MD, is entering her fourth year as a resident physician at Washington University in St. Louis. She is planning to pursue a fellowship in hand and upper extremity surgery.

Anna Miller, MD, FAAOS, FACS, is the Jerome J. Gilden, MD, Distinguished Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis. She is an orthopaedic trauma surgeon and the vice chair of faculty affairs at Washington University in St. Louis.

Upcoming Fireside Chat events

Register now for upcoming 2024 sessions of the Women in Orthopedics Fireside Chat Series. All sessions are held from 6 to 7 p.m. CT on Zoom.

  • July 16: “Tackling difficult conversations with finesse,” with Evalina Burger, MD, FAAOS
  • Aug. 20: “Championing my professional value,” with Leesa Galatz, MD, FAAOS
  • Sept. 17: “Building a clinical practice,” Lisa Lattanza, MD, FAAOS
  • Nov. 19: “Enhancing my professional visibility,” with Mary Mulcahey, MD, FAAOS
  • Dec. 10: “Building surgical talent pathways,” Bonnie Simpson-Mason, MD, FAAOS

Join the Women in Orthopedics Fireside Chat Series listserv and register for upcoming webinars by visiting rb.gy/izfe27.

AAOS IDEA Grant Program® fuels diversity in orthopaedics

Applications for the 2025 AAOS IDEA Grant Program® are open through June 17, so now is a fantastic time to consider applying for grant funding for a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming idea.

The AAOS Diversity Advisory Board has earmarked $200,000 of funding across a wide array of funding pathways to support DEI initiatives. Additionally, Stryker has committed an additional $100,000 in funding for the program, for a total of $300,000 for grants in 2025.

Funding pathways span four different tracks, including funding for single-event “touchpoints,” initiatives focusing on longitudinal recruiting/retention, and DEI programming initiatives in both community and academic centers.

To learn more about the program, grant recipients, and application process, visit aaos.org/IDEA.