Hello SOTGC community,
It is with great pleasure that I introduce Dr. Robyn Hakanson today. Robyn is an orthopedic surgeon at Blue Ridge Bone & Joint Center. She is also the Chief of Staff at Northern Hospital of Surry County. I was introduced to Robyn through a co-worker of mine. I was at Global Sales meeting and Jim came up to me and said “I showed your blog to one of my surgeons, she really likes it.” So I said “that’s awesome thank you! Can you ask her if she’d give me an interview?” A couple weeks later and Robyn and I were chatting it up and I was learning more about this self-aware philanthropic lady. Robyn and a few of her colleagues started an organization called WOGO (Women Orthopaedist Global Outreach) which sounds like a remarkable cause. Once she explained their mission, which is: “To empower, educate and engage women and their larger community in developing countries around the world,” and where their next trip will be, I promptly invited myself to go along J I hope you enjoy and are inspired by Robyn’s story as much as I am.
What got you into medicine?
As a freshman at Davidson I got involved with the athletic training program and I was hooked. Sports medicine initially led me into medical school but I found many things that I loved once I got there.
Have you had a mentor along the way and if so, what are two valuable lessons they taught you?
Can’t say that I had one mentor, but I have certainly had role models along the way that have shaped my style as a physician. However, almost all were men because there are so few women in orthopedics. (Less than 4% of orthopaedists are women!) My best friend as a resident was a general surgeon and we navigated the waters together in those years. It wasn’t until much later that I got to know some female orthopedists and now I have several that I count among my best friends
What was the biggest challenge you overcame in med school/residency or even as an attending?
In residency I had to develop the confidence to realize that I was as good as “the boys.” As a “girly girl” there were times that I didn’t feel that I belonged… and there were a few of my colleagues who were determined to make me feel that way! I was my own worst enemy and let things get to me. When I gave birth to my first daughter at the early part of my chief year my perspective changed completely. It took becoming a mother for me to see the big picture.
What motivates you?
My faith and my family
What is your idea of bliss?
Snuggling with my husband and children in front of a movie.
Do you think self awareness (some call it “authenticity” ) plays a role in personal and professional development? If yes, how has it helped you on both levels?
This concept has been EXTREMELY important to me. As I said, it wasn’t until the birth of my daughter in residency that I found my authentic self and embraced her. For years I tried to fit the expectations of what I was “supposed to be” but once I decided to be who I really was I had perspective and didn’t need status or money. One of the biggest pieces of this is to surround myself with good people. Anyone who is going to judge me for making decisions to put certain things first (IE family) isn’t a true friend or someone with whom I want to associate.
What keeps you going on days when you’re exhausted and worn down?
My wonderful husband…and a good cup of coffee! Also, I’m always mentally planning my next trip. (I love to travel!)
What are two lessons that you wish you had learned earlier in your career?
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and pick your battles carefully.
- Always keep what’s really important in sight.
What two pieces of advice would you give a woman who dreams of going into medicine?
- Never be intimidated. We are NOT supposed to be “small men.” Be yourself, be a lady, and always do your best. As women we can bring something different to the table, and that’s appreciated, so do it.
- Also, you CAN have it all….sort of. My children are the loves of my life and I have the most amazing career, but I had to make deliberate choices and some sacrifices in order to have everything. I made the decision to practice in a small town and to not go into academia. As a result, I get to spend 3 days a week with my family, have breakfast with my children every day and lunch many days. This is because this small town allows me to be minutes from them and my call schedule is very manageable. I also work with a wonderful Physician Assistant who makes my life easier. In a big city, or if I had gone into academia, I wouldn’t have this luxury. Having it all does NOT mean all the time, it means determining what’s most important and seeking out the opportunities that will allow me to have the best situation. Sometimes it means creating an opportunity that does not currently exist. I love my family and my practice and am enjoying both to the fullest extent.
What advice would you give a woman who is on that path (IE med school or residency) and is struggling and needs some inspiration?
You need your girlfriends. I never realized just HOW important a good set of girlfriends is until I got into medical school. Even if they’re not in your field, they are priceless, as they provide support and inspiration.
What initiatives on “getting more women into science” give you hope for the future of women in medicine?
A few of my friends and I (from all over the nation) got together at one point and were sitting around, drinking wine and having a great time. We decided that we needed to start a group for female Orthopeadic Joint Replacement surgeons. This group would provide a way for us to use our skills to help those that are less fortunate, and to inspire other young women to get into our field. We started WOGO (Women Orthopaedist Global Outreach) and became a team of Operation Walk who had been doing overseas surgery for several years. Like all of the surgical teams, we go overseas each year to perform free knee replacement surgery in the developing world. But at the same time, WOGO finds a school, preferably a girls’ school, to do an outreach program. The last one was in Guatamala where we were able to renovate their athletic facility and provide a new computer lab for the school. We initiated the first ever Skype call from their school to one here in the United States and the relationship between those 2 schools has persisted. We also partnered with a really amazing group, Soles 4 Souls, and were able to see each child in the school fitted with a brand new pair of shoes. It was life-changing, for them and for us. The look of excitement on the faces of those young ladies had is a memory I’ll take with me forever. Our next trip will be to Tanzania.
At first there were a lot of “nay sayers,” but we proved them wrong and hope to see our group grow to inspire and empower many more.
What is your mantra?
“I can do this!”
The fabulous ladies of WOGO doing surgery in Guatemala
Robyn with her husband in Hawaii