The evolution of fertility treatment and care over the past 30 years is a result of the meticulous efforts of many from physicians and researchers to advocates and patients. These infertility pioneers’ efforts have not only resulted in nearly doubling the success rates associated with IVF – leading to the birth of over 5 million babies throughout the globe – but brought infertility into the cultural forefront as a problem impacting millions and worthy of everyone’s attention which has changed the nation’s perspective on infertility today.

Below are some men and women that have helped shape the conversation about infertility.

Infertility Pioneers: Medical Milestones

Louise Brown and Dr. Robert Edwards, a pioneer in IVF treatment.

Robert Edwards, M.D., Patrick Steptoe M.D., Howard Jones, M.D. and Georgeanna Jones, M.D. – On July 25, 1978 after years of research, trial and error from Dr. Robert Edwards and Dr. Patrick Steptoe Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby, was born. Nearly 3 years later Howard Jones, M.D. and Georgeanna Jones, M.D. would have the accomplish the same milestone with the birth of Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first IVF baby born in the United States. Dr. Robert Edwards contribution to the care of men and women with infertility was so profound that in 2010 he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, it is believe that had Dr. Patrick Steptoe still be alive he would have received the same award.

Gianpiero Palermo, M.D. and Andre Van Steirteghem, M.D.- In 1991, Dr. Gianpiero Palermo along with Dr. Andre Van Steirteghem achieved the first Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) birth in the world. Prior to this medical breakthrough there were little to no treatment options available to treat male factor infertility which represents nearly 40 to 50 percent of all diagnosed cases of infertility. Male factor infertility, when at least some sperm is present, is now highly treatable thanks to ICSI.

1997: Michael Tucker has first successful birth of child from a frozen egg.

Michael Tucker, Ph.D.– Over the past 30 years Dr. Michael Tucker’s pioneering work in IVF technologies has received world-wide recognition. In 1992, he helped to advance the ICSI technique and was a member of the team responsible for the first “ICSI baby” born in the US. In 1997, he led a team that was successful in achieving the first pregnancy and birth using cryopreserved eggs, technology that he would later help to advance to become the predominant freezing method used today called Vitrification.

While these developments have been monumental in the advancement of IVF treatment his greatest accomplishment has been his ability to make laboratory technology more accessible to help men and women with infertility around the world. Since Dr. Tucker has been working to improve the processes in the embryology laboratory he has advised, consulted, and trained over 50 other practices bringing quality fertility care to patients across the world.

Infertility Pioneers: Increasing Access to Fertility Treatment

Michael J. Levy, M.D. – Fertility treatment, specifically IVF and donor egg treatment, can be expensive especially in situations where insurance isn’t an option. In 1994, Dr. Michael Levy and the physicians at Shady Grove Fertility offered the first ever 100 percent guarantee program for medical treatment. While considered controversial at the time, since the introduction of  Shared Risk, similar programs have been established at many other fertility centers, increasing access to fertility care. Thirteen years later, another financial program, the Shared Donor Egg Program, was introduced by Shady Grove Fertility. Donor egg treatment, which historically was out of reach for most patients, suddenly became an option for thousands. The program allows participants to not only split the eggs a donor produces but also share the cost associated with up to two other couples, nearly cutting the cost of treatment in half.

Member of House of Delegates: Virginia P. Clagett, Democrat, District 30, Anne Arundel County

U.S. Law Makers- In recent years, several laws have been presented and passed directly related to infertility and the care required to overcome this disease that impacts one in eight women and their partners. In addition to federal regulation, some states have mandates that require employers to provide fertility coverage when certain requirements are met. In 2000, Maryland Insurance Code Ann. § 15-810 sponsored by Delegates Virginia P. Clagett, Anthony G. Brown, Michael E. Busch, John P. Donoghue, Tony E. Fulton, Hattie N. Harrison, Mary Ann E. Love, Brian R. Moe, Mary M. Rosso, and  James E. Rzepkowski  amends the original 1985 law and as a result prohibited health insurance providers that offer pregnancy-related benefits from excluding infertility treatment, like in vitro fertilization. In the years since this amendment, the law has helped thousands of patients access care that otherwise may not have been available due to the financial aspects of treatment.

In May 2013, the Family Act of 2013, (S 881/HR 1851) was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) that would create a tax credit for the out-of-pocket costs associated with IVF and fertility preservation. This bill, which has yet to be passed and made into law, mirrors the current Adoption Tax Credit offering a similar type of tax credit. Should this bill pass it would bring much needed financial relief to thousands of people who need IVF to treat their infertility. Since this bill was introduced, Donna Edwards (D-MD), Eleanor Norton, (D-DC), and Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD) have all co-sponsored the bill. Ask your Member of Congress to support this legislation by sending them a personalized letter. Write a letter to your Senator.

Camille Hammond, M.D., MPH– Camille and her husband, Jason, had been struggling to conceive for nearly five years when they learned they would need a gestational carrier to have children. It was this life changing experience that prompted Camille to establish The Tinina Q. Cade Foundation (Cade Foundation) with the mission to provide educational support and financial assistance to help infertile families in need OVERCOME infertility. Since its creation this nonprofit organization has hosted hundreds of outreach events throughout the U.S. and provided 43 families with financial support for adoption and fertility treatment nationwide.  There are currently 33 Cade Foundation babies as a result of Jason and Camille’s determination.

Infertility Pioneers: Supporting Awareness and Education

Barbara Eck – Barbara Eck – In 1974, Barbara Eck, a nurse facing infertility, started the first RESOLVE support group around her kitchen table. Today, the non-profit organization, known as RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association exists to improve the lives of women and men living with infertility. Volunteer run support groups are one way that RESOLVE works towards that goal. Annually RESOLVE and their team of volunteers host more than 200 support groups helping over 24,000 men and women a year.

While the foundation of the organization was built on providing emotional support, today RESOLVE is the leading patient advocacy organization, supporting important legislation aimed at increasing access to fertility care and provide financial relief for treatment and adoption. On the state level, RESOLVE fights for the rights of the infertility community by supporting legislation that helps people with infertility while pushing against laws that would restrict access to family building options. The last element of RESOLVE’s mission is working to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around the disease of infertility. One such example of their awareness initiative is National Infertility Awareness Week, created by the group 25 years ago.

Elisabeth Rohm (Law & Order) with Dr. Robert Stillman (RESOLVE Hope Award for Service Recipient)

Celebrities and Pop Culture- Over the past several years, celebrities have played a large role in creating awareness and reducing the stigma of infertility and treatment. Both Sherri Shepherd, from ABC’s The View, and Elisabeth Rohm, from NBC’s popular series Law & Order, have lent a helping hand to several nonprofit organizations from the Cade Foundation to RESOLVE. Their continued contributions have enabled women and men struggling with infertility to feel even more empowered to stay the course and  ultimately realize their dreams of becoming parents.

Current and Former Patients-  The most powerful stories come from the men and women on the front lines, those that have personally experienced the highs and lows that come with the quest to  overcome infertility. As the conversation around infertility continues to grow so does the desire to learn more about it from a firsthand perspective. Every year, hundreds of patients share their stories in several different ways including through online communities, media stories on TV or in magazines and newspapers, and even at seminars for new patients.

SGF Patients, Aren & Jeff Dodge, submitted this video for the 2013 Ferring “Heart to Heart” video contest. The couple won the grand prize, a $15,000 education fund for their daughter, as well as raised infertility awareness. Enter to win the 2014 “Heart to Heart” contest.

Andrea volunteered to be a gestational carrier for her friends, Sandi and Phil. Earlier this year, they shared their story with NBC’s The TODAY Show.

Read SGF’s 20 Paths to Positive, a compilation of inspiring fertility journeys written by SGF patients.

Join Shady Grove Fertility on Facebook and connect with over 13,000 women and men who are on (or have completed) their fertility journeys. Share your experiences and receive support from others in a similar place as you.

If you have questions about fertility or are ready to schedule an appointment at Shady Grove Fertility, please speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755.