South African Female Orthopaedic Surgeons' Society (SAFOSS) and BOA launch a new mentorship scheme 'OrthoBUDDY'. Set up to link South African female orthopaedic surgeons with female orthopaedic Consultants in the UK to provide advice and support, it's aim is to retain those currently working in the profession and increase the number of females interested in pursuing a career in the speciality in South Africa.

Doctor Mari Thiart, Exco member of SAFOSS, explains why she approached the BOA about setting up the scheme.

OrthoBUDDY: Building Global Mentorship - One step at a time…

By Mari Thiart
Exco member of SAFOSS

In 2020, South Africa had 51 qualified orthopaedic surgeons who were female  –  5% of the total. As a result, the South African Female Orthopaedic Surgeons' Society (SAFOSS) was created in November 2020, to support the current female minority, improve their experience in the workplace and offer to mentor.  The ultimate aim is to retain those already in training posts and increase the number of those interested in Orthopaedics. 

SAFOSS has grown over the last 18 months and currently has 71 members.  About a third of the members are consultants, many young and requesting mentorship.  Navigating the years' post specialization as a woman can have unique challenges.  Discrimination from patients and other colleagues when setting up a private practice.  Balancing pregnancy and motherhood whilst trying to establish yourself as a 'serious' consultant is no mean feat.  We need advice from people who have walked the path before us. 

Due to the lack of senior women in Orthopaedics in South Africa willing to join SAFOSS and make themselves available for mentoring, I decided to turn to the United Kingdom.  The UK has a similar female ratio (7%), the time zone works well, and the culture is similar.   So I reached out to Caroline Hing, the European representative of IODA, whom I know as we sit on the same board.  She put me in touch with Emily Baird, the British mentoring liaison who brought the mighty Deborah Eastwood on board. And so, OrthoBUDDY was born. 

We discussed how best to go about this.  We decided linking surgeons based on subspeciality initially may be a great idea as common interests mean common ground. 

I am delighted to report that many female surgeons were interested in getting involved, and we are excited to see where this goes!

Some of our SAFOSS members!