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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Pioneering Infertility Specialist Who is Retiring After Over Three Decades in the Field

By Lisa A. Stark

Pioneer, trailblazer, healer, entrepreneur, scientist and savior – these words have all been used to describe infertility icon Dr. Geoffrey Sher. After more than three decades in the field, Sher is retiring next year.

Passionate, intense, vivacious and sometimes outrageous, Sher has seen in the birth of more than 18,000 babies, whose parents sought his expertise from all corners of the world. He is responsible for dozens of scientific breakthroughs in genetic testing and immunologic treatments that define the standard of care today.

Sher trained with a Nobel Prize winner, has appeared on Oprah and CNN, established the first private IVF practice in the U.S., and now a movie, Vegas Baby, about his career produced by an Academy Award nominated producer, is being released.

Yet for all his accomplishments, his parting words are melancholic and singed with self-reflection.

What have you learned?

For all of our achievements, the reality is we are not as good as we think we are. As doctors, we cannot create life. We can create circumstances for life but in the end, we are just a conduit. There is always an element of luck and divine intervention.

The advice I give my patients when they ask what they can do to improve their chances is that they should pray. I believe that while man proposes, God disposes.

My biggest regret is that I couldn’t help more people. For the couples who were unsuccessful, I always wonder what could I have done differently.

Why retire now?

I am retiring because as much as I love what I do, I know there is a season for everything. There comes a time to make way for new people and that time is now. I have had the blessing of a phenomenal career. I have been involved in advancing the field of knowledge for genetic testing and immunology. I know I have made a difference in the lives of my patients.

I am announcing my retirement in advance, out of my respect for my patients. I want to give them the opportunity to make plans for treatment. Many come from all over globe. Others have frozen embryos and eggs.

Cases to Remember

There are so many patients that I hold close to my heart. Many I keep in touch with today. But there are a few who stand out for various reasons.

One woman from Australia had failed 23 consecutive IVF cycles. She had treatment in Australia, UK, Europe, and another clinic in the U.S. before contacting me. At 42, she was pre-menopausal and running out of time. She was blessed to get pregnant with me on her first try after we discovered a subtle immunological problem.

Another, a kind and generous young woman who works with disabled kids, suffered eight miscarriages before we had success. She has become like a second daughter to me. I am happy to say that she now has two children, a boy and a girl, thanks to our efforts.

Carolyn Savage, the woman who made headlines a few years ago after a fertility clinic mix-up implanted another couple’s embryo into her uterus. She did get pregnant and gave the baby back to the biological parents at birth. She contacted me after this episode and we helped her have twins. But her story is a vivid reminder of how vigilant we need to be in checking and triple checking to make sure this type of mix-up never happens at our clinic.

Finally, an older woman who remarried and wanted to have children with her new husband. She couldn’t use her eggs so she turned to her daughter from her first marriage. Her daughter selflessly agreed to carry her mother’s baby, thus keeping the genetic link alive. The mother did give birth to twins making her the mother of her grandchildren.

What is Your Proudest Achievement?

I am blessed and humbled to have had the privilege of being able to provide a service that brings joy to so many people. I have been profoundly touched by the words patients have shared with me through the years. It is awe-inspiring to know that you played a small role in giving someone the gift of life.

I am also proud and honored to have worked with incredibly talented and compassionate colleagues through the years. No man is an island and I could never have accomplished what I did without these people by my side.

What’s Next?

First, we are having a seminar in early September. This is important because it may be my last one. Seminars have been a cornerstone of my career. I believe knowledge is power. Educating couples about choices and options is a passion of mine. The seminar gives us a forum to enlighten and inspire people so they can make informed decisions.

We are also donating a free IVF cycle at the seminar. When you consider that an IVF cycle costs around $12,000 this is no small door prize.

After the seminar, I have several more cycles planned. Then I will retire sometime in 2018. My wife, Charlene, has many trips planned for us but wherever I am, my heart and mind will always be connected to helping families go from infertility to family.

 

Lisa Stark is mother of two of the 18,000 babies Dr. Sher helped bring into this world.

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