Kristy Weber, MD, hasn’t been afraid to challenge the status quo and break barriers throughout her lifetime, regardless of where life has taken her.
As a student working toward an animal sciences degree at the University of Missouri, Dr. Weber was the only female in her artificial breeding class. That didn’t stop Dr. Weber, who grew up in St. Louis, from earning an ‘A’ in the course, which primarily featured students who had grown up on the farm. When Dr. Weber made the decision to pursue medical school, she chose orthopaedics, mainly because many people told her that women couldn’t succeed in that field. And now, since March, Dr. Weber has been serving as the President of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Board of Directors – the organization’s first female president in its nearly 90-year history.
“As a kid, you pick a path and see what’s going to happen,” Dr. Weber said. “Life takes some turns and some twists, and sometimes you end up in a completely different place than where you started. My path hasn’t followed a specific route, but I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish along the way.”
Dr. Weber’s path to Mizzou from St. Louis didn’t feature many twists or turns, however, and was fairly straightforward. Her parents both went to MU and Dr. Weber frequented the campus throughout her childhood. Once she began to think about her future career options, she was focused on becoming a veterinarian. Mizzou was an easy choice.
“Becoming a veterinarian was my childhood focus – and I never wavered from that,” Dr. Weber said. “Mizzou had a great vet school and I didn’t see the point of even thinking about going anywhere else.”
Dr. Weber’s desire to become a vet stemmed from the numerous hours she spent in vet clinics and wildlife rescue centers while growing up. Her father’s best friend was a veterinarian, so they frequented his clinic often.
“I didn’t really have an interest in being a large-animal vet,” Dr. Weber said. “I was actually interested in becoming a zoo vet.”
Dr. Weber also joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority at Mizzou, devoting her time between her busy class schedule and the leadership opportunities that Greek life presented.
“I was looking for a way to develop close friendships and take on more leadership,” Dr. Weber said. “There are so many opportunities for students to lead at Mizzou. The great courses prepared me for the future, and Greek life opened the door for social and leadership trainings.”
It took Dr. Weber only three years to earn her bachelor’s degree in animal sciences (pre-vet), on her way to graduating summa cum laude. She then applied and was accepted into veterinary school. That’s when Dr. Weber’s path took an unexpected turn.
“Everything was going as planned,” Dr. Weber said. “I had worked hard in classes during my first three years, and I was about to begin vet school after applying and being accepted. I had a few conversations with others during this time, though, who asked me if I had ever considered medicine. I thought more about it and learned more about it and I made a complete shift, which was very unlike me. I ended up staying at Mizzou for my senior year, taking a lot of calculus and physics courses that I needed for medical school. It was a busy, science-focused senior year.”
Dr. Weber went on to earn her doctor of medicine from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She did an internship and her residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Dr. Weber did her fellowship in orthopaedic oncology at the Mayo Clinic.
“In medical school, you have a lot of opportunities to think about what you want to do,” Dr. Weber said. “My personality gravitated toward surgery. I like to do something and see a result or make people better quickly. Orthopaedics definitely drew me in at the beginning, but the final straw was that several people told me that women couldn’t cut it in that field. I was told it was too competitive and wasn’t for women. I accepted that challenge.”
Dr. Weber is the chief of orthopaedic oncology in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the director of the Sarcoma Program in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. She works with children and adults with bone and soft tissue tumors, as well as focusing on complex limb salvage techniques around the hip, knee, shoulder and pelvis. She has looked to advance the orthopaedic profession through many different leadership roles for nearly 20 years.
“I work with a great team at the University of Pennsylvania,” Dr. Weber said. “We’ve built an outstanding sarcoma program focused on research and clinical care, and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
During her time at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Weber’s path brought her to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), where she has served as the vice president of the Academy for the past two years. She moved into the president role in March 2019, which is the third year of a four-year term of volunteer service.
“The organization has been around 87 years and never had a female president,” Dr. Weber said. “I thought it was about time. It’s been a very male-dominated culture, and I was quite pleased that this barrier got broken. It’s been encouraging to see more women in leadership roles during my travels as president as well.”
As president, Dr. Weber works with the CEO and the 250 staff that work in the organization. With a new strategic plan developed last year, Dr. Weber has helped the organization focus on their key areas of education, research and advocacy, among many other volunteer duties.
“It’s definitely an exciting time within the organization,” Dr. Weber said. “We’re also working to evolve the culture at the AAOS to be more strategic, innovative and diverse. As president, I get to be a leader for those strategies, as well as enact our goals and vision from the strategic plan.”
While Dr. Weber’s current career path is far removed from those artificial breeding courses, she still has a few ties to Missouri. Two of her closest friends and sorority sisters at Mizzou were Jennifer Rowe and Sara Parker Pauley. Rowe is an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism and Parker Pauley is the director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Dr. Weber will be the commencement speaker at CAFNR’s December 2019 graduation ceremony.
“I still have those Missouri roots,” Dr. Weber said. “My career has also come full circle in an interesting way, too, as the University of Pennsylvania has a great vet school that I do collaborative research with. It’s neat to think that I’m working with veterinarians when I originally wanted to be one.
“I’m grateful for the experiences that MU was able to provide as I began my professional path.”