Neurosurgery as a specialty was founded in 1920, when our George Washington, Dr. Harvey Cushing, founded the Society of Neurological Surgeons and began to share techniques with an elite group of burgeoning brain surgeons around the United States. Central to the new specialty was training, and our passage of knowledge from generation to generation has shaped us ever since.
Until very recently, the faces in neurosurgery residency training programs were mostly pretty similar, and virtually all male. When I trained, about 5% of incoming residents were women. Just 4 or 5 years ago, that percentage had only reached about 10%. In just the last few years, though, more women are entering neurosurgery and beginning to change the specialty. In the last two years, about 1 in 5 new trainees has been a woman.
I am proud that OHSU Neurosurgery is in the vanguard of this new trend. Currently, 5 of our 15 residents are women, an unusually high 33%. Our 2011 class of new residents included Dr. Frances Hardaway and Dr. Kelley Bridges, both of whom were among the top U.S. medical school graduates in 2011.
Our experience has been that a reputation for a supportive and positive environment for women trainees (and in fact all trainees) has given us access to some of the best applicants available. Soon, having a neurosurgical workforce that reflects the diversity of the neurosurgical patient population will start having a positive, and profound, impact.