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The Urology Residency at IU School of Medicine welcomed its most diverse class of interns with four women entering their training to become urologists.

Women in Urology: IU welcomes its most diverse class of urology residents

Headshot composites of Hardesty, Black, Roper, Sapklova and Gold, Urology Class of 2029

This summer, the Urology Residency at Indiana University School of Medicine welcomed the most diverse class of interns in its history. Among the five recent medical school graduates now training in urology, four are women.

It’s the inverse of the norm — the last five classes of urology residents typically included one woman.

“Women patients prefer seeing female urologists,” said Urology Residency Director Chandru Sundaram, MD. “As such, increasing females in our residency is important.”

Urologists treat patients of all genders as they deal with problems of the urinary tract, including issues common in women like urinary tract infections, bladder control and pelvic organ prolapse.

Yet, as a field, urology has struggled to increase diversity. According to the American Urological Association’s 2023 Census, less than 12% of practicing urologists in the U.S. are female, and only 1.8% are African American or Black. There is evidence the number of female urologists is on the rise. Among urologists under age 45, about 25% are female.

A group of second and first-year urology residents pose together outside a downtown Indianapolis restaurant.The AUA’s 2024 Urology Residency Match placed 385 new doctors into residency programs throughout the nation, and 45% of these future urologists are women. Among them is Chinade Roper, MD, a 2024 IU School of Medicine graduate from Marietta, Georgia, who is thrilled to continue training at IU in her chosen medical specialty.

“IU was my No. 1 choice,” Roper said. “I enjoyed my away rotations, but nothing compared to IU. The residents were helpful from the first day I met them, and the faculty helped me gain experiences to make myself competitive on the application. And they are so good in the operating room.”

IU’s Urology Residency is consistently recognized as a top 20 program nationally, offering a high volume of major urologic surgeries and exposure to all subspecialties in urology.

“IU students report that the IU program’s surgical training is superior to other programs after they spend time during away rotations across the country,” Sundaram said. “Most of them would like to stay on here, but we are competitive nationally. Our top medical students typically match with us.”

This year, Roper was among that elite group, along with two other 2024 IU School of Medicine graduates: Morgan Black and Juliet Hardesty. The move to admit a greater percentage of women into the residency program was strategic, Sundaram said. It helps that the applicant pool was about 40% female this year, demonstrating a growing interest in urology among female medical students.

With this year’s demographic boost, 28% of IU’s urology residents are now female, and 12% are from populations that have been historically underrepresented in medicine, including Black and Hispanic physicians. Among IU’s current urology faculty, about 21% are women and 3.4% are from underrepresented groups.

“Representation is important,” Roper said. “I’ve had several people tell me they couldn’t find a female urologist. I’m hoping more women and minorities will be encouraged to apply to this field.”


Chinade’s path to urology

Selfie of Chinade Roper and her motherRoper is the first in her family to graduate from college and to become a doctor. Growing up in Marietta, Georgia, she volunteered at the hospital where her mother worked as a unit secretary. Her first exposure to urology came when her grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At that time, Roper was in college on the pre-med track at Georgia State University.

“He made it through surgery and radiation, but he had a lot of complications from comorbidities,” Roper said. “He had a weakened immune system post-surgery, and he passed during my first year of medical school from COVID.”

Her grandpa was originally from Alabama and had a long drive to specialist appointments before the family moved him to Georgia. During her grandfather’s final year, Roper’s classes were all virtual, so she helped her mother and grandmother with his care.

“I did study sessions on Zoom for medical school during the day, and at night, I administered medications and feedings for my grandfather,” she said.

When she resumed studies on the IU School of Medicine—Northwest-Gary campus, Roper learned more about the barriers to health care that exist in the nation’s medically underserved areas as part of the Urban Medicine and Health Care Disparities Scholarly Concentration.

“I will continue to highlight these health care disparities and use my platform as a physician to come up with solutions to better connect services with patients in areas where it’s not easy to get to a urologist,” she said.

Chinade Roper in business attire at podium, presenting research to the American Urological Association while two men in suits listen from table at front of roomDuring her time as an IU medical student, Roper served as class representative with the Organization of Student Representatives, liaising between the IU School of Medicine student body and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Exploring her interests in urology, Roper conducted research with Marcelino Rivera, MD, who was then a fellow in endourology and is now an assistant professor of urology at IU School of Medicine. Roper presented findings about ejaculatory and erectile function following the HoLEP procedure for prostate enlargement during the annual meeting of the American Urological Association, the largest global event in urology.

Roper also elected to do a monthlong rotation with Charles Powell, MD, who specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. For career mentoring, Roper was paired with Sundaram, who fielded her questions as she considered pursuing this traditionally male-dominated specialty.

No one discouraged Roper from entering urology, despite its reputation for being among the most competitive medical specialties.

“When I was younger, there were many people who did not think I would make it this far, but I did not let that impact my mental state or stop me from even attempting to achieve a goal I set for myself,” Roper said. “Urology is something I wanted to do, and I was going to go for it. I’m more fearful of not reaching my greatest potential than I am of failing.”


Meet more women in IU’s Urology Residency

Professional headshot of Morgan Black (caucasian female with blonde hair) on blue backgroundMorgan Black, MD

Hometown: Rockville, Indiana

Medical School: Indiana University


Question: How did you develop an interest in urology?

Answer: I had kidney stones during childhood, so during third year, I decided to rotate in urology for my surgical elective. I immediately knew it was the field for me. After that month's rotation, I was able to see the surgical variability urology could offer.

Q: What experiences in medical school influenced your desire to stay at IU for residency training?

A: The program here was not like any other in terms of the surgical experiences residents get. Additionally, the people here functioned as a team and made coming into rotations and working alongside them fun.

Q: How does it feel to be going into a historically male-dominated field and to be part of an 80% female residency class at IU?

A: To me, it feels empowering. I am excited to see how the field changes and grows with more and more women joining. I am looking forward to (our intern class) growing as a group together and slowly eliminating the stereotype that urology is only a field for men.


Juliet Hardesty (caucasian female with brown hair) wearing her graduation gown with the Indianapolis skyline behind her

Juliet Hardesty, MD

Hometown: Indianapolis

Medical School: Indiana University


Q: What do you like about the field of urology?

A: Urologists treat life-threatening illnesses like cancer, as well as fundamental aspects of quality of life: urinary and sexual function. I was attracted to the variety of potential career paths and diverse day-to-day experiences. I realized during medical school that I really enjoyed the challenge of walking into a room and having about 30 seconds to make patients feel comfortable talking about sensitive and intimate topics.


Q: What experiences in medical school influenced your desire to stay at IU for residency training?

A: I saw first-hand the incredible surgical experience and responsibility given to trainees in the program. The IU urology community is supportive and fun, and the staff's dedication to teaching is evident. Ramzy Burns has been a great mentor and role model. I was with her my first week on urology, and I haven’t looked back! She is now a fellow at IU.

Q: How does it feel to be going into a historically male-dominated field and to be part of an 80% female residency class at IU?

A: I think the number of females that matched into urology this year is evidence of the growing support for women entering the field. I feel fortunate to be a trainee during a period when things are changing for the better for women in surgery.


Headshot of Viktoriya Sapkalova (female caucasian with long blonde hair) wearing white blouse and black jacket

Viktoriya Sapkalova, MD

Hometown: Suwanee, Georgia

Medical School: Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University


Q: How did you develop an interest in urology?

A: I shadowed a lot in my pre-clerkship years and did a couple of urology electives where I spent extended time in the OR and clinic with various attendings and residents. I loved the variety of cases, big and small, that existed in urology and the ability to develop longitudinal relationships with the patients that you operate on.

Q: What attracted you to IU’s urology residency?

A: I was attracted to IU's program because of the caseload and learning opportunities that existed for residents. During my away rotation (at IU), I saw first-hand how residents were able to learn and do a lot themselves. I knew that training at IU would allow me to become the best surgeon I could be.

Q: How does it feel to be going into a historically male-dominated field and to be part of an 80% female residency class at IU?

A: I feel excited to have achieved the chance to join other women in dispelling the myth that only men go into urology. I never felt like it was unattainable to be a woman going into this field because (I had) such strong role models. I received a lot of comments from men and women on how they could never choose this field or how it's “interesting” that a woman wants to pursue urology. I did not pay them any attention. … It is very exciting and humbling to be a part of this intern class. I hope it encourages other women who are on the fence about urology to pursue this field.

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Laura Gates

Laura is senior writer with the Office of Strategic Communications and loves to tell the stories of outstanding students, faculty and staff at IU School of Medicine. A native Hoosier, she has over 25 years of experience in communications, having worked with newspapers and other media organizations in Indiana and Florida, along with small businesses, community groups and non-profit organizations. Before joining IU School of Medicine in January 2020, she was editor-in-chief of a lifestyle magazine serving the community of Estero, Florida.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.