Applications are still open until the end of Thursday for the fourth annual The Perry Initiative workshop to be held on March 19 at the University of New Mexico.

The workshop, a Perry Outreach Program (POP), invites 40 high-school-aged women to spend a day experiencing hands-on mock surgeries, lunch and engaging lectures from prominent women in engineering and orthopaedics, Program Coordinator Manuela Restrepo said.

Restrepo said the non-profit is a national organization that holds annual programs in over 30 cities across the U.S. and ships roughly 500 pounds of materials to each site, all with the mission statement “Building the Pipeline for Women in Engineering and Medicine.”



She said Dr. Jenni Buckley founded the Perry Initiative in 2009, because they “thought this program was necessary to bring diversity into their respective fields.”

Christina Salas is a engineer host for the UNM satellite branch of the Perry Initiative, as well as an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation.

She graduated from UNM in 2008 with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and has participated in development of the very first POP, where she helped create modules for use among participants in the San Francisco Bay Area, she said.

Later, the program was sponsored by big-name donors, which allowed POP to develop satellite programs nationwide. After hearing this, Salas said she pushed to bring the program to UNM. She has seen plenty of positive feedback over the past three years she has served as engineer host.

By attending the workshop, which is hosted by the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation and sponsored by Acumed, Restrepo said participants can gain necessary knowledge and experience to get a head start on their collegiate and professional careers.

Salas said workshop attendees will have the opportunity to observe a hand-performed dissection of a human cadaver and conduct biomechanical engineering experiments on repaired bones.

An all-female volunteer staff involved in engineering and medical fields will facilitate the day’s events as well, she said.

The workshop gives the participants an opportunity to receive mentorship, a clear understanding of engineers’ roles in medicine, as well as training to receive hands-on surgical training similar to that of an orthopaedic resident or medical student, Salas said.

Restrepo said that applicants are required to answer two questions, what their short and long-term goals are in terms of education and why they are interested in POP.

The Perry Initiative is looking for enthusiastic, interested and highly-motivated applicants who are willing to tell them about themselves rather than sending grades or recommendations alone, she said. Students who have not yet decided on a career path involving engineering or medicine and are still exploring their career options are still encouraged to apply.

“Women constitute 12 percent and 11 percent of academic faculty in orthopaedics and engineering, respectively. The number of women in mechanical engineering is even lower,” Salas said. “We would like to increase the participation of women by introducing them to these fields at an early age. One might not consider engineering and orthopaedics to be closely related, but engineers are essential in implant design, basic research on surgical instruments and rehabilitation devices and can provide experimental validation for surgical techniques used in the operating room.”

Women are targeted for the workshop because the fields on engineering and orthopaedics are dominated by men, Restrepo said.

“These fields are losing out on amazing talent and the lack of diversity in these fields leads to health disparities for society. We want to encourage these girls to pursue these careers fearlessly and with all the confidence in the world,” She said. “It is important for women to consider pursuing careers in orthopaedics or engineering, because these are very rewarding fields. The more diversity of thought in these fields, the better we’re off as a society.”

Restrepo said POP would like to thank UNM for bringing the program back to inspire more students and invites those interested in learning more to contact her at mrestrepo@perryinitiative.org, visit perryinitiative.org, like The Perry Initiative on Facebook or follow the program on Twitter or Instagram 
@perryinitiative.

Elizabeth Sanchez is a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.