It was February 2017 when we received the call. The award-winning Washingtonian magazine was on the line. Associate editor, Caroline Cunningham, was interested in learning about the humble beginnings of Shady Grove Fertility and the fervent determination yet consummate humility behind its 25 years of steady growth. She wanted to learn about SGF from every perspective. She wanted to talk to our business leaders, physician scientists, our staff, as well as referring physicians who send their potentially infertile patients to seek our care every year. In the words of Cunningham, “how it came to be and how it grew to the largest in the country.” Who had the vision and who are the players involved that led the SGF baby boom from 1 office and 3 physicians 25 years ago, to now 25 offices across 4 states, 39 physicians, and over 40,000 babies born? We were honored to say the least. We love the opportunity to talk about our visionary leaders who never dreamed of the success we’ve achieved today. Read the full article, Shady Grove Fertility Started as a Tiny Maryland Clinic. Now It’s the Country’s Biggest Babymaker, as seen in as seen in Washingtonian magazine online.
The SGF “Golden Rule”
The seemingly simple answer behind our growth would be that it was our plan all along, to be the largest. But that’s not the case. Our mission, or as co-founder Dr. Michael J. Levy calls it, our Golden Rule, has always been to do what’s in the best interest of the patient. “It’s all about the patient. It’s that simple,” Levy says. What this means takes different shape for each unique patient who walks through our doors every day, but at the heart of it is providing the best service, creating better access to care by making treatment more affordable, and by doing everything possible to help the one in eight couples who will need help in order to conceive.
Cunningham spent hours over several days with many of the key SGF players who were here from the beginning to learn how the Golden Rule has manifested in many different ways through the years. She spent time with co-founders Michael J. Levy, M.D. and Arthur W. Sagoskin, M.D.; CEO, Mark Segal; Laboratory Director, James Graham; Medical Director, Eric A. Widra, M.D.; VP of Strategic Development, Patty Stull; and Interior Designer, April Hatton. But Cunningham didn’t stop there. She wanted to hear how others, outside of SGF, revered the practice so she reached out to local OB/GYNs, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association President, Barbara Collura, and former SGF patients.
Cunningham learned again and again from all of her SGF interviews, that there wasn’t a “master plan” for our expansion, but as stated by Cunningham, “nothing about SGF is lacking in careful consideration – a sense you pick up on the minute you step through the door.” Visually and physically, the offices, especially the new offices, are entirely designed with the patient in mind. This visual representation reflects the attention to detail in every other aspect that impacts the patient’s journey. But, as shared by Dr. Levy, none of the detail matters unless patients can afford treatment.
Access to Care
The cost of financial treatment is and has always been a barrier for couples needing the help of a fertility specialist to have a baby. In 1992, Dr. Levy sat listening to a patient sitting before him with an impossible decision – pay for IVF or adoption. Both had high risk, high reward, and both were costly. It was then that SGF’s flagship Shared Risk 100% Refund Program, which guarantees a baby or a full refund, was borne, inspired by the tearful testimony of a patient who felt as though she lacked options.
At the time, Shared Risk was a controversial idea—was it ethical to pair patient success with a financial program? The ethics review committee at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) said yes.
Even with access to care, Cunningham learned that the possibility a patient will take home a baby is quite possibly the most important aspect of fertility treatment. Will it work? According to Barry Rothman, an OB/GYN with Inova Alexandria Hospital, who has attended SGF physician-led educational events for OB/GYNs and other providers, he refers patients because of our numbers (success rates).
According to the most recent 2014 SART data, SGF live birth rates for women under 35 was 48.8%, 18.4% higher than a local competitor. Success rates for women ages 35-37 and 38-40, were also significantly higher.
This success comes from years of refining protocols and techniques, an incredibly high level of attention to detail, and volume. Challenging rare cases at smaller fertility centers are performed regularly at SGF due to our pure volume and therefore, with experience comes, refinement. According to OB/GYN Dr. Nancy Sanders of Women OB/GYN Physicians, in D.C. “In such a highly technological field, there’s something to be said for seeing a lot of patients, when do you volume, you get good at what you to.”
Renee Trotter and her husband, Scott, live in Springfield, VA. After five miscarriages, Renee didn’t believe she could carry a child, yet, upon her husband’s suggestion, they scheduled with Dr. Stephen Greenhouse of SGF’s Fair Oaks and Haymarket, VA offices, as a final hope to have a baby.
Renee’s experience with Dr. Greenhouse
“First of all, he talked to me when I had my clothes on, which sounds like something insignificant, but when you go through the process for a long time, you can almost start to feel like you’re just this object. We were talking across his desk, and he looks me in the eye and I started to cry. He got up, and he walked around from his desk and grabbed a tissue and handed it to me. It just struck me that I felt like a person.”
They are now the proud parents of a 6-year-old-girl.
No one ever really expects to need fertility treatment to have a baby, so it is our mission to make sure we share the correct information when the couple, or individual, needs it. Our dedicated Practice Development Managers and Practice Liaisons host physician-led educational events for both referring physicians, as well as prospective patients.
This year alone, SGF will host close to 120 free events designed to educate patients, and nearly 250 events designed for the medical community, mainly OB/GYNs. We have an amazing network of OB/GYNs and other providers who attend our events to stay up-to-date on infertility treatment and to know when precisely to refer for specialized fertility care.
At Shady Grove Fertility, doing what’s best for the patient doesn’t just mean for the patient we have today, it’s also about our future patients and the future couples who will learn they need assistance to have a baby. This is why raising awareness about infertility is a responsibility we do not take lightly. It is our belief that advocacy is about raising awareness and giving a voice to the many who suffer in silence, and the responsibility falls on everyone who can, and is able and willing, to make a difference. For us, this means sharing patient stories with the public, educating referring physicians, advocating our cause to lawmakers, and even providing patient testimony in front of Congress when needed (by reaching out to our family of 60,000+ current and past patients with whom we stay in touch regularly).
According to president of RESOLVE, “I know state legislators value the opinion of physicians and want to hear from them. It helps my patients. It helps our community,” says Collura. Advocacy is a joint and continued effort, and we are proud to have been involved in the victories and changes in legislation as well as the continued fights for improved access.
The Full Picture. Behind the SGF Baby Boom
Even after dozens of interviews and hours of research, Cunningham walked away with a brief glimpse into what makes Shady Grove Fertility unique. Despite the many hours she spent with us, she didn’t get to see the daily interaction between physician and patients—the hugs, the smiles, the tears. She also didn’t get to see the friendships that have formed among the team members, for many a friendship that has spanned decades, as working alongside colleagues on such an important mission can often create an impenetrable bond.
It takes a compassionate group of people who are dedicated to make fertility treatment understandable, accessible, and affordable. And through continued innovation, focus on improving success rates, and never settling for “good” or “good enough,” we have continued to grow.
It’s important to mention, doing what is best for the patient is not limited to just SGF patients, and it’s not limited to patients in MD, PA, VA, and D.C., (where our offices are located). It means doing what is in the best interest for all couples who face infertility around the world, and being ready for them if they come to SGF.
Your dream of growing or expanding your family is within reach. Schedule an appointment to get started, today. Call our New Patient Center at 877-971-7755.
At Shady Grove Fertility, we’re here to give you the caring support you deserve as you start or grow your family. As a leading fertility and IVF center of excellence, we offer patients individualized care, innovative financial options, over 30 accepted insurance plans, and pregnancy rates among the highest of all national centers. We offer patients the convenience of 19 full-service and 6 satellite locations across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. More than 1,700 physicians choose Shady Grove Fertility to refer their patients, and more than 96 percent of our patients say they would recommend Shady Grove Fertility’s 39 physicians to a friend. With 10 Shady Grove Fertility babies born each day, your dream of starting or growing your family is within reach.