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Life Lessons: Female docs break down barriers

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 04 2014 04:00:00 AM CDT

In 1970, only eight percent of doctors were women. Today, it’s 30 percent.

In 1970, only eight percent of doctors were women. Today, it’s 30 percent.

Despite this surge, there are still stereotypes about which fields of medicine women should enter and how much they should work if they have families.

Ivanhoe talked to two female doctors who broke the rules and are glad they did.

It isn’t unusual to see a female surgeon like Dr. Katherine Coyner, but what is unusual is her specialty.

"Orthopedics has traditionally been an old boys' club,” said Dr. Coyner, orthopedic surgeon, UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Fewer than seven percent of all orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. are women.

"It is a little more physical in nature,” Dr. Coyner explained. "We use hammers, saws, and drills."

She mentors female residents and is heavily involved in The Perry Initiative, a young women’s mentoring program that helps expose them to the field of orthopedics.

"She cares a lot about teaching residents,” said Jessica Wingfield, orthopedic surgical resident, UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Early exposure and then continuing mentoring to show them that there are role models out there," Dr. Coyner explained.

Dr. Sumita Khatri is a mother of 9-year-old triplet girls and an 8-year-old boy.

"Some of my closest friends told me when I have my girls, I will go part-time,” sid Sumita Khatri, pulmonary physician at Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Khatri chose to keep her full-time role.

"It became very important for me to sort of hold the banner that this can be done, if this is what you want," Dr. Khatri explained.

Since 2005, the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent with nearly one-in-four female doctors between 35 and 44 working part-time.

Dr. Khatri said showing her kids that they can have a career and a family has motivated them to dream big.

About 53 percent of family practice residents, 63 percent of pediatric residents, and nearly 80 percent of OB-GYN residents are female.