Two girls from McHenry County high schools are among those chosen to attend a workshop pointed at drawing them into a male-dominated branch of medicine and medical engineering.
Anneliese Kuechenberg, of Prairie Ridge High School, and Mary Anna Scranton, of Woodstock North High School, will head to Loyola University's Stitch School of Medicine next weekend for a day-long program on orthopaedics and engineering.
The day is sponsored by the Perry Initiative, a non-profit with an aim to inspire young women toward careers in orthopaedic surgery and biochemical engineering.
Only approximately 5 percent of orthopaedic surgeons are female, according to the 2012 census of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
"One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you need to be a big, strong man to do the actual surgeries, and that's not true at all," said Dr. Karen Wu, an orthopaedic surgeon at Loyola who will speak next weekend. "Because there aren't that many women, there aren't that many female role models out there to kind of inspire women to go into the field."
Wu said that her and a female colleague, Dr. Teresa Cappello, each latched on to the mission of the Perry Initiative, and felt strongly that they wanted to bring a workshop to Chicago.
The response has been strong. More than 200 applicants poured in, causing organizers to expand the participants to 40 people rather than 36, as originally planned.
Scranton and Kuechenberg are each excited to learn more about a field of which they've so far only scratched the surface. Both have careers in the medical field in their sights.
Scranton, who will start at Harper Community College in the fall, is seeking a career in biomedical engineering.
Kuechenberg is interested in nursing, but hasn't ruled out medical school. She will attend Olivet Nazarene University in the fall, and saw a fun opportunity to learn more about a specific field through the Perry Initiative.
"At the program, you perform mock surgeries," Kuechenberg said. "I thought it'd be interesting to go through that process."
Wu is hoping the day will persuade people like Kuechenberg into orthopaedics – or, at the least, into giving it a fair look.
"The more we reach out to girls at a young age, the more it becomes natural to just say this is what I like, and this is what I want to do," Wu said. "Rather than be bogged down by the stereotype that, 'Oh, only men do that.'"