CHILLICOTHE, OH – If you were a betting person, you probably wouldn’t lay odds that a hospital would have two women orthopedic surgeons on the same staff.
The numbers would back that up. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, of 29,612 orthopedic surgeons in the United States, just 6.5 percent are women. When the focus is on hip and knee replacement procedures, that figure drops to about 2 percent.
So when Adena Health System welcomed both Dr. Nicole Meschbach and Dr. Meaghan Tranovich to its Adena Orthopedic and Spine Institute the past few months, it beat the house.
Dr. Meschbach is a board-certified orthopedic adult and reconstructive surgeon who is also certified in robotic-assisted surgery. She performs hip and knee replacements, partial knee replacements and revisions, fracture fixation around implants and treats infections around implants, as well as sees several patients on second opinions. She also joins Dr. Neel Patel at Adena in bringing an anterior hip replacement technique to southern Ohio.
She learned the advanced procedure during a one-year fellowship with the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, during which she said she honed her skills in the procedure by performing hundreds of them.
“That’s something I feel very comfortable with, and about 80% of my hip replacements are done using the anterior approach,” she said. “The reason I like it so much is because you don’t have to cut any muscle or cut any tendons, you just go in between muscle groups to get down to the hip. It’s a smaller incision – I would call it muscle sparing because you don’t have to injure those just to get down to the hip, and in the first six weeks, it has a much quicker recovery.”
Dr. Tranovich, meanwhile, is sports medicine-trained and handles primarily shoulder and knee arthroscopy and everything that goes along with it, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), meniscus and rotator cuff surgeries, total knee replacements and trauma. She, like Dr. Meschbach, also is certified in robotic-assisted joint replacement, which research has shown helps make needed cuts more accurate in hip and knee replacements.
Both women became interested in orthopedic care as the result of past injuries. Dr. Meschbach, who played Division I college soccer at DePaul University, had four knee surgeries as the result of her athletic career, and Dr. Tranovich was active in dance until suffering a back injury. Those experiences, they said, help them identify and empathize with their patients – several of whom are young athletes anxious to get back in the game or to normal activity levels quickly – and achieve better patient response to treatment options.
The two physicians are aware that they are something of an anomaly practicing in what the numbers show has traditionally has been a male-dominated specialty and attribute the lack of women pursuing careers within orthopedic surgery to several factors.
“I think it has a lot to do with stereotypes and misconceptions about the practice and the field,” Dr. Meschbach said. “I think people believe you have to be a big, burly football player to do this, and what I tell them is if you’re having to use that much force or be that brutal, you’re probably doing something wrong – there’s a lot of finesse to it. I also think that because there are so few females, there are few female mentors as well, so women in general just aren’t exposed to the field to realize it’s a great career opportunity.”
Dr. Tranovich agreed about the impact of a lack of visible female representation in the field, saying she had only one female attending physician during her training and that she was only the second woman to go through residency in the field where she trained. There are signs, however, that things are starting to change, she feels.
“It’s getting better with time,” she said. “I think there are more female trainees now than there were in yesteryear.”
Both women are trying to be a part of that change. Each is involved in mentorship roles for medical students and residents with the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, where they can help break down those stereotypes.
Dr. Meschbach recommends that young women considering a career in orthopedics utilize the resources offered by the Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, as well look into the offerings of The Perry Initiative, a national organization inspiring women to become leaders in engineering and medicine. Dr. Tranovich, meanwhile, encourages those interested in an orthopedic surgery career to pursue one.
“You just have to know what you’re doing and you can do it,” Dr. Tranovich said. “It doesn’t matter how big or small you are and it doesn’t matter what gender you are.”
Situated on the campus of Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe, the five-story, 111,000-square-foot Adena Orthopedic and Spine Institute opened in September of 2021 as home to the Health System’s nationally accredited orthopedics program and specialized care for orthopedics, spine, sports medicine, neurology, podiatry and interventional pain management.
To learn more about Drs. Meschbach and Tranovich and the entire AOSI team of providers, visit Adena.org/AOSI.