One of 50 in the US: Orthopedic Surgeon Operating to Bring More Black Women to Field

One of 50 in the US: Orthopedic Surgeon Operating to Bring More Black Women to Field

Orthopedic surgeon, Shasta E. Henderson, is not only treating muscles and bones, but she’s flexing them.

With her group, Black Women Orthopedic Surgeons, Henderson has sought out even more people like her for support.

The South Carolina-based surgeon is one of only 50 Black women orthopedic surgeons in the country and among even fewer Black women who specialize in orthopedic trauma, the Post and Courier reported. She currently serves patients at Trident Orthopedic Specialists in a city where she represents only 6% of Black physicians.

The Los Angeles native discovered her passion for medicine quite early on. Her interest was ignited at the age of five when she joined her gastroenterologist father, Dr. Donald Henderson, on hospital rounds. However, she intended to pursue neurosurgery until she was introduced to orthopedics through her experience as a Division 1 athlete at Barnard College of Columbia University.

Her admiration for science and engineering tied everything together for her.

“It’s a mechanical thing,” Henderson said, per the news outlet.

“I enjoy putting things back together. What I do in orthopedic trauma is just that. It is carpentry, if you will, in the operating room, using plates and screws.”

Since graduating college, Henderson has often had to pursue her passion alone, especially as a Black woman in a white-male dominated field. Her efforts to change that included founding “The Pipeline,” a student-led mentorship program in support of minority medical student retention.

“Certainly, it’s always interesting and a little uncomfortable being the only [black woman] in the room,” Henderson said.

“You feel it yourself, even if they don’t purposefully point it out, you feel that you know you’re different. That can be a little intimidating.”

Henderson’s career began at Yale University, where she completed her orthopedic residency at Yale New Haven Hospital, a level one trauma center. She went on to a fellowship in orthopedic trauma at the Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center, and has been working ever since to bring more Black physicians into her field.

“People do seem to be more comfortable when they are cared for by somebody they can relate to, for whatever reason that may be,” Henderson said.

“So I think there is a lot of value in having a diverse population in the medical field and it’s important that you have varied ideas.”

The ambitious group has about 70 members and intends to mentor and empower residents, fellows, and medical students.