Orthopaedic Women's Link (OWL)



Topic: 'The nuts and bolts of what it takes to be an orthopaedic surgeon'


Findex, an AOA alliance partner and AOA invite all female medical students, interns and junior doctors to enter the 2024 OWL Essay. 

AOA acknowledges major sponsor support from Findex — an AOA alliance partner. 

Findex Logo_145x135

Findex is one of Australia's leading providers of integrated financial advisory and accounting services. To find out more, visit the Findex website

Submissions open 9am Sunday 2 June and close 5pm AEST Tuesday 2 July. The winner will be announced by Friday 9 August.  

Submit essay button

Prize details

The winner will receive:

  • Complimentary registration to the AOA Annual Scientific Meeting in 2024 in Brisbane including all social engagements. 
  • Up to two nights' accommodation to attend the ASM and return economy flights (if required, see T&Cs). 
  • Opportunity to present essay during the OWL Soiree at the ASM in Brisbane. 
  • Publication of the winning essay in AOA's flagship publication, the AOA Bulletin

For more information, view the full terms and conditions

The NSW Branch is offering an OWL NSW ASM bursary to encourage and facilitate attendance at the NSW Branch Annual Scientific Meeting among female emerging orthopaedic surgeons.

The program, provided to existing AOA NSW OWL members, aims to achieve new and greater female member attendance at the NSW ASM. It recognises the gender-equity issues faced by emerging OWL trainees and early-career OWL fellows. 

The NSW ASM will take place at the Park Proxi Gibraltar Bowral from 26 to 27 July 2024.

Two OWL bursaries will provide registration the NSW ASM, one for a NSW fellow and one for a NSW trainee.  

What's included?
Successful applicants will have the opportunity to attend:

  • NSW ASM (both days) including keynote and paper presentations
  • Friday welcome dinner

What's covered?

The bursary will cover the full costs of accommodation, travel (if required), conference registration (including social functions), to an approximate value of $925.

Eligibility criteria
Applications are open to AOA female trainees and early-career fellows (in their first five years of practice) who:

  • are members of the NSW or ACT branches. 
  • are in a part-time or full-time employment capacity. 
  • may be on maternity leave. 
  • are financial members of AOA and of the NSW or ACT branches. 
  • have not received any other AOA awards or bursaries in the last two years.

Applicants are asked to provide brief supporting detail on their interest in the ASM and how their attendance will benefit them. 

Application and selection
Members who meet all the eligibility criteria are welcome to apply.

Applications should be submitted via the online form below by 31 May 2024.

Download the AOA OWL NSW ASM Bursary application form.


Allocation of bursaries will be undertaken by a conference bursary panel based on the following key factors:

  • eligibility criteria.
  • aim to support female and early-career members from as many geographical regions as possible.
  • aim to support female members and encourage new ASM attendance.

Applicants are encouraged to discuss their attendance at the conference with their relevant employers and supervisors.

Applicants can expect notification about the outcome of their application by 30 June 2024.

Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified of the results.

It is not possible to provide feedback on applications, and no correspondence regarding decisions on applications will be entered.

If you have any questions related to the 2024 OWL NSW ASM Bursary please contact susie.obeid@aoa.org.au

OWL is an advocate for women in orthopaedics. OWL aims to encourage and support women through their orthopaedic careers, from as early as medical school, through to consultant level.

OWL also seeks to create visible role models, encourage women to pursue and complete orthopaedic surgical training, address education issues, monitor gender-related matters and statistics, and providing advice to women trying to overcome work-life challenges.

Sarah Watts initially conceived the idea of OWL as an organisation to support women in orthopaedic surgery in 2008/2009. Peter Steadman, who was the QLD Branch Chair was very supportive and took the idea to the AOA Board. Sarah was advised to put together a proposal and her sister designed the OWL logo. in 2010—2011 the AOA Board approved OWL as an affiliated group. 

The first OWL meeting was held in 2012 at the Sydney AOA ASM. Sarah enthusiastically printed flyers and made balloons, with Sue Liew giving the first presentation — thus, OWL was born. While OWL was recognised and supported by AOA and the membership, OWL was granted official status as an AOA committee in 2016 at the request of the OWL members. In 2018 the OWL membership voted to adopt a revised terms of reference for OWL to further establish a transparent and robust governance structure. 

For more information on OWL's history, please download the OWL chapter of A History of Orthopaedics in Australia 1980–2016.

OWL is currently addressing the following issues: radiation safety and pregnancy, return to work after maternity leave, international policies and organisations of same, and looking at training problems versus gender issues.

For further information and to seek OWL’s services please email owl@aoa.org.au

Topic: 'Orthopaedics — the good, the bad, and the ugly.'

Congratulations to Suzen Agharia, medical student VIC, on winning the OWL Essay 2023. 


Read Suzen's winning essay

We would also like to congratulate the runner-ups:

Lily Salehi, PGY5, VIC

Susanna Ratnam, NSW medical student. 

Read Lily and Susanna's essays

  • To advocate with regard gender issues, career support, training, flexibility and educational opportunities for women interested in pursuing a career in orthopaedic surgery

  • To provide leadership within the AOA by:

    • Aiming to represent the perspective of women on all AOA committees
    • Supporting the implementation of the AOA Diversity Strategy
  • To liaise with students in second and tertiary education, and junior doctors, to encourage and promote more women to pursue orthopaedic surgery as a career by:
    • Creating visible role models
    • Providing career advice opportunities
    • Providing educational opportunities 
  • To provide a mentorship for emerging leaders, trainees, junior doctors and medical students.
  • To evaluate gender specific issues in the field of orthopaedics, including:
    • Monitoring trends and statistics related to numbers of women training and working in orthopaedics
    • Identifying gender barriers in training and developing solutions to remove them
    • Identifying safety issues for female surgeons including radiation safety eg. breast cancer rate in female orthopaedic surgeons,
    • Specific health concerns for female patients eg. radiation concerns for scoliosis patients, prevention of ACL injuries in the female athlete
  • To develop strategies to address parental leave requirements within the profession, for example: 
    • Parental leave access and impact on training commitments
    • Health safety while pregnant including radiation minimisation strategies, utilisation of cement intraoperatively and needlestick injuries
    • Guidelines for on-call during pregnancy
    • Return to work planning and support
    • Collaboration across specialties, health jurisdictions (nationally and internationally) and aim for best practice guidelines.
  • To promote flexible training within the workplace and support AOA in developing models that allow for interrupted training, including:
    • Parental leave
    • Family members requiring heightened care (children, partners, parents)
    • Other leave requirements (sporting, personal medical care, public service, higher education) 
  • To work with RACS Women in Surgery in research and exploring solutions to the impact of:
    • Health risks in pregnancy
    • Operating theatre sessions and on-call in pregnancy
    • Return to work and support after parental leave d. Breastfeeding/expressing as a surgeon
  • To research the policies of other surgical groups both nationally and internationally with regard to leadership, selection, training, health and well-being of women in the surgical specialties and provide feedback to AOA for the purposes of policy development. 
To support our members where possible, AOA will provide facilities to assist mothers who are feeding an infant or expressing breastmilk, and to parents of preschool age children who attend AOA scientific meetings, COEs and other events.

Read the policy for more information.

Topic: 'Orthopaedics — the good, the bad, and the ugly.'

Congratulations to Suzen Agharia, medical student VIC, on winning the OWL Essay 2023. 


Read Suzen's winning essay

We would also like to congratulate the runner-ups:

Lily Salehi, PGY5, VIC

Susanna Ratnam, NSW medical student. 

Read Lily and Susanna's essays


Topic: 'Give me a break and I'll fix it!'

Congratulations to Saumya Chanana, 2023 intern at Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN) - SA Health, on winning the OWL Essay 2022. 


Read Saumya's winning essay

We would also like to congratulate the runner-up and highly commended entries:

Suzen Agharia, medical student at Monash University, VIC

Read Suzen's runner-up essay here

Highly commended:
Annora Kumar, medical student, University of Western Australia
QLD: Shutong Mo, postgraduate year two, Queensland Children's Hospital
NSW: Kate Hurst, medical student, University of Notre Dame, Wagga Wagga

Read the highly commended entries here


Topic: Give a girl a hammer.


Congratulations Belinda Ong (SA medical student, University of Adelaide) for being selected as the overall winner for the 2021 OWL Essay. Read Belinda's winning submission here

We'd also like to acknowledge and congratulate the joint runners up and highly-commended submissions:

Joint runners up

  • Annabel Fraser, QLD postgraduate Year 2, Gold Coast University Hospital
  • Sophie West, QLD postgraduate Year 4, Cairns Hospital

Read their submissions at aoa.org.au/OWLEssay2021-Runnersup

Highly-commended submissions

  • Sally Heading, NSW intern, Port Macquarie Base Hospital
  • Claudia Yarad, NSW medical student, University of Newcastle
  • Bree Gardoll, NSW medical student, University of New South Wales, Wagga Wagga Rural Clinical School
  • Helena Franco, QLD postgraduate Year 4, Cairns Hospital
  • Saumya Chanana, QLD medical student, Bond University


Topic: Orthopaedic surgeons are born, not made.


Congratulations Kathlyn Andersen (VIC medical student, University of Notre Dame, Ballarat Clinical School) for being selected as the overall winner for the 2020 OWL Essay. Read 'The Lifecycle of the Orthopod' and Q and A.

Highly commended
A highly commended winner was chosen from each state where the highest essays were marked. Congratulations to all recipients:
  • Madeline Temple (NSW intern, Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital)
  • Natasha Abeysekera (QLD intern, Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital)
  • Evelyn Axelby (SA medical student, University of Adelaide)
  • Jessica Paynter (VIC intern, Bendigo Health)
A glimpse into a career in orthopaedics

In place of a OWL SA and QLD workshop, originally scheduled for 10 July, we held a webinar for all medical students and junior doctors interested in pursuing orthopaedics. Watch the webinar.

Reversing the barriers to females becoming orthopaedic surgeons
Watch our webinar on 'Reversing the barriers to females becoming orthopaedic surgeons', held on 27 May 2021.

OWL representatives


Chair/QLD: Danielle Wadley

NSW: Catherine Hibberd


VIC/TAS: Rebecca Tang


QLD: Ruth Varrall


SA/NT: Megan Cain


WA: Lily Garcia

AORA: Naomi Pinto

Champions of Change representative: Andrew Saies

Co-opted member: Ian Incoll

  • Juliette Gentle 2020–2022
  • Jennifer Green 2018–2020
  • Michelle Atkinson 2016–2018
  • Sarah Watts 2012–2016
    • Canberra 2019: AVM Tracy Smart and Commodore Michele Miller
    • Perth 2018: Professor Fiona Wood
    • Adelaide 2017: Chris Castle & Rekha Ganeshalingam
    • Cairns 2016: Sarah Coll
    • Brisbane 2015: Sheanna Maine
    • Melbourne 2014: Annette Holian
    • Darwin 2013: Sarah Watts
    • Sydney 2012: Sue Liew