Growing up playing competitive hockey, Dr. Caroline Scott always knew how unique it was to have her mother, Dr. Christine Young, as her team doctor. While she was interested in science and medicine, Dr. Scott never imagined that one day the two would be working side by side, sharing a practice with her mom. But things don’t always happen the way you expect and the two are now trailblazing the Canadian medicine scene as the only mother-daughter orthopaedic surgeon team.
While their path to orthopaedic surgery may seem similar, with each completing their medical degrees at the University of Toronto and working at Scarborough Health Network’s (SHN) Birchmount hospital, the steps that led them to orthopaedic surgery were very different.
For Dr. Young, it all started following an injury while she was completing her undergraduate degree in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo.
“I suffered an injury in a bicycle accident while I was studying at University of Waterloo. It was actually that injury and the orthopaedic surgeon who treated me, that inspired me to look into the field. He noticed my interest in the anatomy of the body and my curiosity, based on how many questions I was asking. That’s what ultimately lead me to look deeper into orthopaedics.”
Dr. Scott however, was more interested in the solution-oriented focus that orthopaedics could bring.
“Having a built-in role model and mentor – my mom – definitely inspired me. It was always so fascinating seeing her in action,” shared Dr. Scott. “Seeing a teammate acquire an injury, watching my mom find the problem and determine the solution and seeing my teammate be able to get back onto the ice was inspiring.”
The duo bring a unique and fresh perspective to their practice. With Dr. Young having 33 years of practice and Dr. Scott coming up on her fourth year of practice, they are both able to share and learn from each. The two not only bring fresh techniques and training to the field, but they both also highlight the importance of compassion and diversity in their daily work.
“When I first started here, I was just one of three orthopaedic surgeons, and the only female. Now, 33 years later, I’ve been able to see the community and program grow and I am proud to see more female orthopaedics joining the team,” Dr. Young noted.
“As a woman and a surgeon in my field, I’ve learned how important it is to have a voice and to express my opinion.”
Dr. Scott, notes the importance of having female surgeons and health care providers that represent the diverse community of Scarborough.
“The community wants to have surgeons who represent them. There are a lot of women who request female surgeons, and I think it’s important that they have that opportunity,” Dr. Scott reflected. “We’re extremely lucky to have colleagues that support us, both in terms of our specialty but also in our lifestyle and the unique needs of women in medicine, and support us to continue to be prominent members of the surgical community.”
While most support has been positive, there have been moments of silent critique or “advice” that both Dr. Young and Dr. Scott have faced over the years.
“As a medical student, there were instances when a teacher would say things like ‘Orthopaedic surgery isn’t a good lifestyle choice for women,’ or ‘Orthopaedics is quite physical and can be hard for a woman,’” Dr. Scott recalled. “But orthopaedics is a field that is fantastic for everyone – regardless of gender.”
About to go on maternity leave, Dr. Scott is a perfect example of a woman not allowing a field that is predominantly male and physical to define her career. For Dr. Young seeing her daughter follow in her footsteps is a reminder of her start in the field – which includes being pregnant with Dr. Scott while completing her residency at U of T.
“I operated up until she was born, basically, and I never saw that as an impediment; instead, I used it to my advantage, using my belly to hold a retractor and help expose a wound during a bipolar hemiarthroplasty. It wasn’t long before she was due and she was kicking quite a bit!”
Through it all, the pair never fail to be amazed at the gratitude and kindness they experience daily from their patients.
“Our patients often come in with a bad injury or complication, but their perseverance through the experience and the gratitude they feel towards us, influences me in my own life to see the best in things and be grateful for the opportunities and health that I have,” Dr. Scott shared.
“With all the various changes that happen in hospitals, something that motivates me is that we are all here to make people feel better. Dr. Young and I are so lucky to work with an incredible interprofessional team who have signed up for the same goal.”
Drs. Young and Scott are continuing to inspire and promote an environment of acceptance, compassion, and learning. They hope to encourage future generations of young women to join them in the orthopaedic surgery field.