Helping people every day – career focus for orthopaedic surgeon

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Dr Danielle Wadley has a simple response when asked what she would say to young women considering joining her in the very exclusive club that is ‘Female Orthopaedic Surgeons’.

“I would just tell them why I entered the field,” said the Gold Coast Private foot and ankle surgeon, whose gender accounts for just four per cent of Australia’s orthopaedic surgeons.

“I have an opportunity to help people on a daily basis. Surgery is also very diverse. It’s satisfying from a technical and intellectual capacity. Problem-solving is a large component of our work and we are introduced to many types of people.

“It also doesn’t necessarily have to be all clinical. You can work in areas such as research, outreach programs, leadership and mentoring.

“It’s a very demanding and challenging profession but there are so many facets to being a surgeon that are rewarding.”

It is also a career that relatively few women enter, with orthopaedic surgery having the lowest proportion of female surgeons in the country.

Dr Wadley is one of only two female foot surgeons on the Gold Coast, and while she did not hesitate to pursue her passion, she can appreciate why many females opt for alternative career paths within medicine.

“As a male-dominated field there has been a lack of female role models in orthopaedic surgery, not to mention the duration of training,” Dr Wadley said.

“Completing medical school is the first step. Surgical training requires many years of hard work and dedication. For many women this is a consideration, particularly if they decide to start a family.

For Dr Wadley, the chance to help people get back on their feet outweighed such factors, particularly those patients battling sports injuries.

“I’ve always been involved in many types of sports and have led an active outdoor lifestyle, so it’s undoubtedly a passion,” she said.

“One of the philosophies of my practice is to encourage people to stay lightweight, fit and active. I say those words a lot.

“I encourage people to be active and invest in their health and wellbeing. One of the goals of treatment is to facilitate, support and encourage patients to rehabilitate and return to sports and maintain an active lifestyle.”

A graduate of the University of Sydney, Dr Wadley undertook a Post Graduate Diploma of Sports Medicine during her orthopaedic training before completing a Fellowship in Foot and Ankle Surgery in Calgary, Canada.

She has also obtained experience in renowned American centres including New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery and North Carolina’s Duke University.

While her focus these days is very much on her Gold Coast Private patients, she is also committed to ensuring more Australians have the option of being cared for by female surgeons and supporting female junior doctors if they choose a career path in orthopaedic surgery.

“I think the public appreciates seeing a bit more diversity in the profession,” said Dr Wadley, who is an active member of the Women in Surgery and Women in Orthopaedics communities.

“I informally mentor some of our amazing junior doctors and as an advocate of women in surgery, I’m more than happy to let them know just how satisfying my career is.”

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