Where members share their stories and experiences about Pride Ortho
Two years ago I gave a talk titled, “Diversity & Orthopedics” to the medical students of the Columbia Longitudinal Information Program, our version of a virtual sub-internship during the challenging COVID period. I was asked to give this talk because I consider myself an ally and an advocate for diversity in medicine, and especially orthopedic surgery. My work with the Ruth Jackson Orthopedic Society, being mentored by Julie Samora and Dawn LaPorte, and working at an institution like Columbia is not accidental. Columbia Orthopedics is in some ways a champion of diversity in orthopedic surgery training: we consistently have over the national average of women residents (usually ~30%) and are in the top ten residency programs in the country to graduate African American trainees. Yet, I found myself giving this talk embarrassed that a key piece of diversity was still being addressed in whispers among orthopedic surgeons: sexual orientation and gender identity.
The slides above are taken directly from my talk – nearly two years ago.
A few days ago, I became the 100th member of Pride Ortho.
Pride Ortho has turned the whispers into conversation. The dilemmas into discussion. The uncomfortable no one was talking about into the uncomfortable everyone should be celebrating – because the only way to change is to get uncomfortable.
I am a white, heterosexual cis woman in orthopedic surgery without a pedigree of orthopedic surgery, or medicine, behind me. I will treat any patient regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and I recognize that not every patient will want me to be their doctor – and perhaps they would prefer someone who is Latinx, bisexual, trans female – and more importantly maybe their outcome will be better because of that. As the 100th member of Pride Ortho, I feel lucky to join 99 others in orthopedic surgery as an advocate an ally towards uncomfortable change.
Welcome to the century club, Pride Ortho – cheers to all of the milestones ahead!!
Author: Dr. Christen Russo MD
Dr. Russo became the 100th member of Pride Ortho on May 26th, 2022.
In 2012 I was sitting in a hire car in Akureri, Iceland, stealing a local hotel’s WiFi, in order to check my email and elatedly discover I had been accepted into orthopaedic training. I recall the eerie midnight-sun dusk of the moment, and the glacier behind me. In 2014 I gave my first presentation at a national-level conference. I recall the feel of the lectern and the heat of the lights. In March 2022, I mingled at AAOS with LGBTQ+ identifying orthopaedic surgeons, residents, and medical students for the first time in my career.
The lapel pin will be treasured, and the conference-centre chic of the rectangular room, round tables, and bain-marie luncheon will be stored in mind, but at the forefront of my memory will be the warmth, acceptance, and optimism emanating from each and every individual in attendance and the group as a whole.
Attendance at the AAOS Pride Ortho Luncheon in 2022, I consider as significant for me as each of those other key events in my career.
I practice as an adult and paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne, Australia, with subspeciality training in Limb Reconstruction and Paediatric Oncology. Orthopaedic Surgery in Australia faces the same multitude of diversity challenges seen in the United States and elsewhere, and fortunately, this has now been recognised with the Australian Orthopaedic Association developing a Diversity Strategic Plan after careful consultation with members and the community.
I can perhaps speak for my experience. I acknowledge my privilege as a white male: Being able to ‘hide’ one’s diversity is an advantage in arenas such as orthopaedic surgery. The potential barriers and discrimination faced by women and other groups manifest differently, as such diversity may be less easy to hide. Coasting along, however, works only to a point. When does ‘not announcing your gayness’ become hiding it? When is the ‘right time’ to ‘come out’ in a workplace, particularly when every new rotation, brings with it the same issue over and over again? Tell them too soon, and you may be accused of being evangelical about it; too late, and other’s assumptions have implicated you in a lie you never wished to commit.
I found this a difficult balance to strike during training, and a lot of this has to do with the intensely hierarchical nature of our profession. I am much more confident in my identity and the way in which I display it now, as an Attending, and I see my role in Pride Ortho as one of helping others navigate this journey.
Being ‘actively out’ in my profession, to me, means using my partner’s pronouns (he/him) freely, and unlearning my habit of constructing entire conversations without ever using a pronoun. It means using my experience to appreciate other forms of diversity, each one unique in itself, and assist in dismantling systemic barriers for others. It means wearing my Pride Ortho badge on my lapel, not just for me, but for my colleagues, my juniors, and my patients.
Authored by: Dr Stewart Morrison MBBS FRACS(Orth) FAOrthoA
Author: Grace Gilbert
Pride is something I celebrate, advocate, and hope for on social media, in my personal life, and in my career. Yet the moment I was asked to write for ortho pride, I was instead filled with fear.
My immediate response was, can I wait until after I match?
Because as much as I am proud of who I am, who I am becoming, as much as I want to be an openly queer career driven surgeon, I am afraid. I am afraid that I may offend someone, and be ranked lower. I am afraid that even those who are not anti-LGBTQ will find my advocacy annoying or “too much”.
A friend of mine casually mentioned recently that it’s “trendy to be gay now”. I understood what he meant, and to some degree it’s true. We have public figures, celebrities, sports stars all publicly gaining a lot of media attention for who they love.
However, that is the select few. Those that we already worship for their beauty, money, success, or talent we accept.
I have to ask though, was it trendy last year when my classmate, a Doctor, was the victim of a hate crime and had to have his jaw wired shut after being attacked? Is it trendy for my sister-in-law, a trans-woman who lives in Texas, to watch as bills are being passed to make it child abuse to allow children to transition?
Is it trendy that LGBTQ youth have the highest rates of suicide out of any group in America?
I am entering the least diverse field of medicine in existence. There is no specialty with less women, less minorities, less IMGs, or less LGBTQ members.
As a woman I have dealt with sexism on this journey. As an IMG I have dealt with discrimination. And yet, I am still afraid that I will not be able to handle how I am treated for who I love.
So what can you do? Pity me? Poor Grace, it must be scary. Write a diversity statement? Lobby for more gay residents?
Truly, all I ask for is a safe space. I don’t need to be celebrated, I don’t need a parade.
Speakup Ortho was not created to get more women into orthopedics, although I hope it does. Orthopride was not created to force feed a narrative to anyone who disagrees with our life style.
These accounts are here to allow you to see what is truly happening to us everyday. They’re here to let you try on our shoes, for the time it takes to read an Instagram post.
I understand more than most, that for many, my orientation defys your beliefs, religion, and culture. I don’t ask you to vote differently, or believe differently. I ask that as I work 80+ hours a week, I can come to work knowing that my colleagues, attendings, and administrators have my back. That they will not mock me or my community in front of me, or behind my back.
Basic, human, decency and kindnesses. That’s all anyone wants. That’s what pride is to me.
That’s what I hope to gain by being an active member of this community.
*Grace matched into a preliminary general surgery position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN and will be re-applying to Ortho next year.
Grace Gilbert's IG page: @Gilbert.MD.RN
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