The Birth of WOGO
In 2006, five female orthopaedic surgeons (Drs. Hakanson, Holt, Cook, Horton and Tsao) met on a professional panel focused on the impact of arthritis on women. Their meeting was not a common occurrence, as women represent only 4% of orthopaedic surgeons in the United States. Despite the varied paths that brought them into the field of orthopaedics, the commonalities in their experiences as surgeons created a shared purpose:
- To combine their skills and expertise to make a difference on a global scale, and
- To respond to the unique needs of women who develop more knee arthritis, experience more advanced stages of joint disease and greater disability, yet often face many barriers to receiving effective long-term treatment.
When Dr. Holt shared her experience from a mission coordinated by Operation Walk, the WOGO seed was planted. Dr. Hakanson thought this would be a perfect opportunity to combine her passions of orthopaedics and philanthropy. Dr. Cook suggested that the group focus on women due to the disproportionate frequency of arthritis in women and the more significant burden of the physical demands of life and work in rural communities. In developing nations, routine orthopaedic reconstructive procedures are not readily available and a woman’s access is often restricted.
Organizing the hectic schedules of surgeons with competing demands of medical practices, research, teaching, parenthood, mentoring and other philanthropic activities proved very challenging, yet the commitment remained. In 2008, WOGO representatives met with Zimmer executive leadership to discuss WOGO’s vision. Zimmer had supported previous Operation Walk missions and agreed to provide support to WOGO during its formative stage.. A sixth surgeon, Dr. Amanda Marshall joined the team, and a meeting was arranged between the surgeons and Operation Walk representatives. In September 2009, WOGO was incorporated and based on extensive need, the group decided the first outreach would be to Katmandu, Nepal.
Through their medical practices throughout the United States, the surgeons witness the extensive impact and severity of knee arthritis in women and the factors that limit their access to orthopaedic care. Through its numerous medical missions, Operation Walk has experienced widespread levels of unmet needs among women in undeserved communities worldwide. The surgeons of WOGO seek to improve the health and mobility of anyone in need in the communities they serve, but have a special passion for treating women.