PSS

Scale

Scaling Barriers

by Jonathan Everitt

During her first years of medical school at Tulane University, Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin ’92 went home to visit her parents in Connecticut, where she ran into a prominent local orthopedic surgeon who was also a longtime family acquaintance. When she told him she was in medical school, he asked what kind of physician she wanted to be.

“I proudly told him, ‘I want to be an orthopedic surgeon,’” Matzkin shared as she accepted the 2014 Joan Hinton Hurd ’65 Lifetime Athletic Achievement Award on campus this spring. The award recognizes William Smith graduates for outstanding lifetime athletic achievement. “And with a quiet grin, the doctor turned to my folks and said, ‘she can’t be an orthopedic surgeon. She’s too small.’”

“From that moment, it was a done deal. Nothing would stop me,” said Matzkin of her determination to pursue orthopedic surgery. “I never looked back.”

As a woman in a male dominated profession, Matzkin has built a career based on determination—and important milestones. In 1998, she made history as the first female orthopedic resident at the University of Hawaii. And in 2003, she broke yet another barrier when she became the first female sports fellow at Duke University.

“There were many unknowns,” she says. “How would a female do in the men’s locker room? Is she strong enough to reduce a dislocated hip?”

One by one, Matzkin put these and other questions to rest. Born and raised in Woodbury, Conn., Matzkin loved playing sports in high school, and was drawn to William Smith in part for its athletics. While here, she was a four-year starter on the lacrosse team and captain of the ice hockey club. A biology major, she also consistently landed on the Dean’s List, graduating cum laude.

“When I was at William Smith, I was pretty certain I wanted to go to medical school,” she says. “After graduating, I got my master’s in applied physiology at Chicago Medical School, and then went on to Tulane.”

Today, Matzkin is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, chief of Women’s Sports Medicine, and surgical director of Women’s Musculoskeletal Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She also continues to serve as a physician to sports teams around the country, including the Stonehill College football team, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, the U.S. Paralympics Soccer Team, and U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team.

“Trying to keep my patients active, out on a playing field, is what I love to do,” she says. “Being in the college setting continues to challenge me. I love to support the next generation of women who want to go into the field, which is still less than 10 percent women.”

Though the profession remains overwhelming male, she’s continuing to work toward improving the balance. “I am proud to be mentoring many young women like yourselves to make this number grow,” she told the audience of William Smith students during her award acceptance.

For Matzkin, it’s not just about encouraging new opportunities. It’s about dispelling old notions of what “different” means when it comes to male and female professionals. “I strive to be a great orthopedic surgeon,” she says. “Not a great female orthopedic surgeon.”

 

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.