Dr. Lisa Ronback, orthopedic surgeon, said women have come a long way in less than 100 years. Less than 100 years ago, for example, she said, women did not even have the right to vote in the United States.
Ronback was the guest speaker at the 12th annual Nontraditional Employment For Women Opportunities Workshop Thursday at Quaker Haven near Dewart Lake. She is a member of the Woodlawn Hospital medical staff in Rochester.
This year’s workshop had the theme of “Cutting Edge Careers.” Sophomore students from the six high schools of Wawasee, Fairfield, West Noble, Tippecanoe Valley, Warsaw and Whitko, approximately 200 girls total, attended the workshop. Roughly 40 women from a wide range of traditionally male dominated careers were presenters.
Ronback said she never considered entering a traditional male career when growing up. Her mother was a physical therapist and enjoyed her work, so Ronback decided to enter that field. She later earned a college degree in physical therapy but chose not to stay in the field because, among other reasons, she did not particularly like taking orders from doctors and did not like the uniforms therapists wore at the time.
Later she discovered orthopedic surgeons worked well together as a team and were able to change people’s lives for the better in a relatively short amount of time.
Entering the field of orthopedic surgery is quite difficult and challenging, she acknowledged, and during a five-year residency program it was not uncommon to work as many as 72 to 84 hour stretches with little or no sleep or a break. A man she was dating at the time told her it was not a good idea to be an orthopedic surgeon if one wanted to get married and have children, but then she stopped dating him and eventually married someone else.
Ronback shared 10 steps on how to pursue a cutting edge career. She said to explore, feed your mind, find your voice, fail (in order to learn what you do and don’t like), choose wisely, don’t expect an easy road, question everything, look for people who lift you up, find mentors and pay it forward. She challenged the students to find out the real reasons why people who give advice say the things they do. Sometimes the advice given may not be for the right reasons.
She noted today women have many more career options in non traditional careers and cited a niece who is considering becoming an engineer or a doctor. “You might even make more money now in those careers,” she added.
Ronback has been a surgeon for 18 years and still enjoys her career. “I love the independence I have,” she said. “I don’t need to rely on anybody in any way, though we do have a team.”
After Ronback spoke, the students were able to visit tables staffed by female presenters from a wide range of careers. Those included architecture, electrician, engineering, firefighting, forensic science, truck driving and more.
In the afternoon a bus was available for students to explore science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, careers through labs.
The annual workshop is sponsored by the Warsaw Area Career Center and the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative.