October 2018
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Young Women Visit Columbia to ‘Test Drive’ Careers in Medicine

Demarest, NJ: Columbia University Medical Center recently hosted a Perry Outreach Program for selected female high school students who are interested in medical careers. Attendees included Academy of the Holy Angels junior Amelia Brunda of Paramus and AHA seniors Olivia Hagopian of Oradell, Maria Hannoush of Wyckoff, and Timea Papp of Hawthorne.

Organized by the Perry Initiative, the Perry Outreach Program is a day-long event held at multiple locations throughout the nation each year. The program strives to create a conduit for women to enter engineering and medical professions, including orthopedics.

Brunda reported that Perry Outreach volunteers included female orthopedic surgeons and students from Columbia.

“They (the volunteers) assisted us in our activities, such as making casts, suturing a long cut on a pig's foot, and drilling into ‘bones’ to repair external and internal fractures,” the Paramus resident said. She added that some of the orthopedists spoke about the path to becoming a licensed surgeon and the subspecialties within their field. Brunda found the experience informative and enjoyable.

“I applied to this program to learn if medicine and/or engineering was something I wanted to do as a career,” she added.

Hagopian described the program as “one of the most inspiring, empowering experiences I have had.” She explained, “One of my favorite modules was the knee ligament procedure. My peers and I worked together to approximate where we needed to insert the screwdriver into the bone in order to correctly join the tibia to the femur.”

Asked about her interactions with the medical professionals, Hagopian said, “I was greatly impacted by the words of Dr. Christine Russo, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. She informed us of the fact that less than 14% of orthopedic surgery residents are female. This was statistic was absolutely shocking to me, and her story of how she persevered and followed her career aspirations enlightened my understanding of the impact orthopedic surgeons have on the lives of those in need of medical care. The relationships I developed with my peers and all of the female medical and engineering mentors have inspired me to study and work to my greatest potential in order to pursue my career goals as a future physician.”

Hannoush also plans to become a doctor. She explained that she has an interest in medicine and biomedical engineering, and wants to help others through her work.

“Surgery in general, but especially orthopedics, is a male-dominated field. I want to change this because I believe in the strength diversity brings. With its hands-on activities and accomplished women speakers, I knew this program would deepen my knowledge and help direct my career choice – making it invaluable,” Hannoush added.

“The Perry Initiative was a new and truly enriching experience. I would recommend it to all girls considering a career in medicine or even engineering. Through the various modules, guest presentations, and interactions with my peers and the volunteers, I walked away with a new perspective on the orthopedic specialty and more confident in my ability to pursue my career goal.

“I greatly enjoyed the entire experience, but my favorite part was talking with the volunteers. They were passionate about their field and seemed excited to share their experience and interest with us.

“The volunteer with whom I had the most interaction was a pediatric orthopedic surgery specialist who happened to be a speaker at the event as well. I talked with her at breakfast and during some of the modules, which provided ample opportunity for all my questions to be answered. Her love for her career was contagious, and I found our conversations interesting and motivating. While I remain unsure of what medical specialty I would like to pursue, I feel empowered for the day I make that decision.”

Papp, who plans to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, also found the program an enriching experience. She enjoyed the medical training and interacting with the women who ran the program.

“There were so many amazing mentors to help me through each step, and I was able to ask them questions about their experiences and their path to becoming a leader in their field,” Papp noted.

This student particularly enjoyed performing an “ex-fix” to quickly repair a broken femur. Her team set the femur in a clamp and drilled holes for the pins. They stabilized the bone by attaching pins with a rod and clamps.

Papp explained that this procedure is used when a patient has additional injuries that need immediate attention. An orthopedic surgeon later addressed the students, who then removed the pins and began working on a long-term repair known as an intramedullary fixation, or IM.

“We inserted a bar straight down the length of the bone and secured it with screws, permanently setting the bone and eliminating the need for the large pins which were used for the ex-fix,” Papp explained. “Then, we repaired a compound fracture on a tibia and performed a knee reconstruction, drilling holes through the bones to attach the ligaments necessary for the knee to move and bend as normal.”

Papp said she enjoyed working at the ex-fix and IM stations because they reminded her that each patient is unique. 

“I was proud when the procedures were done because it almost felt as if I had brought a patient from square one to the end of their stay at the hospital.”

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


Academy of the Holy Angels

315 Hillside Avenue Contact Us & Driving Directions

Demarest, NJ 07627

Phone: 201.768.7822

Contact Us & Driving Directions

Copyright 2017. Academy of the Holy Angels. Privacy Policy.