Women in Medicine Spotlight: Bonnie Gregory, MD
A 2021 study revealed that just three National Basketball Association team orthopedic surgeons were women. By the spring of 2022, UTHealth Houston’s Bonnie Gregory, MD, had joined them.
As a sports medicine surgeon at UT Physicians Orthopedics and an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Gregory’s influence extends well beyond the clinic and the operating room.
Notably, she serves as a team physician for the Houston Rockets, Houston Dash, University of Houston, and Foster High School in Richmond, Texas.
“I love being in the athletic environment in part because I love being on a team,” Gregory said. “It’s really important for me to be present in these situations—to serve as a visible reminder of diversity, not only for those on the court and in the stands, but also for those behind me who are interested in sports medicine.”
Although medicine in general has reached gender parity in recent years, orthopedic surgery lags far behind, with women making up just 16% of orthopedic surgery residents and 6% of practicing orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. Overall, women account for less than 20% of team doctors at both the collegiate and professional levels. Gregory, a North Carolina native, grew up playing tennis competitively. Due to an injury, she transitioned to rowing during her college years at Duke University, where she also became interested in orthopedic surgery during pre-med classes. Gregory attended medical school at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and completed her residency in orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, followed by a fellowship in shoulder and sports medicine at Duke University.
In 2019, Gregory joined UTHealth Houston. Alongside her commitments to teaching, clinical excellence, and research, Gregory knew early on that she wanted to carve out time to work with sports teams.
“I enjoy taking care of athletes at every level and helping them find success on and off the field,” she said. “Working with the Rockets has been great; taking care of professional athletes means the opportunity to provide sports medicine care at the highest level. I’m also going into my fifth season with Foster High and love taking care of my high school athletes just as much. There’s a whole group of students who have only had me as an example of what a team doctor looks like.”
In addition to the training she received at some of the nation’s most esteemed orthopedic institutions, Gregory credits several influential mentors who have been pivotal in her early career success. One such figure is Walter Lowe, MD, professor, department chair, and the Edward T. Smith, MD Chair in Orthopedic Surgery. It was Lowe who recruited her to UTHealth Houston, but also entrusted her with opportunity to work with the local sports teams.
In addition, Bernard R. Bach Jr., MD, who has since retired from Rush University, stands as an important figure in Gregory’s journey. His guidance and advocacy helped her find her path in sports medicine. Alison Toth, MD, was another key mentor for Gregory. Toth, whom she first encountered during her undergraduate years at Duke, showed her that it was possible to be a female orthopedic sports surgeon at the highest level. This initial connection evolved into a close working relationship during Gregory’s tenure as a sports medicine fellow at Duke.
“Since sports medicine is extremely competitive, I cannot overstate the importance of mentorship. Having someone who can go to bat for you and give good advice is invaluable,” Gregory said. “Even if it’s not someone at your home institution, social media is a great way to connect with other orthopedic surgeons and discover new opportunities.”
She also actively advocates for women who hold an interest in orthopedic surgery to pursue this field. Gregory believes that more women entering the sports medicine will only serve to propel the field forward.
“If you want to do it, there is absolutely a space for you in this field,” Gregory said. “Even though orthopedic surgery is slow-changing, we want it to be more diverse and more representative of our society, just as medicine is changing as a whole.”