Meet Michigan Medicine: Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility

April 26, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in eight couples face challenges when it comes to fertility.

Fortunately, a team of experts at Michigan Medicine is committed to helping couples manage those struggles by providing patient-centered care and cutting-edge treatment options. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, Headlines is taking a closer look at the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Here’s what you may not know about REI, the division that helps families grow at Michigan Medicine.

A committed team

The REI team comprises around 30 staff and ten faculty members and aims to be an international leader in reproductive health, treating both male and female patients with a broad range of infertility disorders.

Among the conditions treated are reproductive endocrine disorders that cause infertility — such as irregular menstrual cycles, early menopause or low sperm counts — and fertility issues caused by cancer treatments that are toxic to the sex glands in both men and women.

“We have doctors, nurses, scientists, medical assistants, embryologists, social workers and administrators, all committed to carrying out our organization’s mission of high-quality patient care, education and research,” said Erica Marsh, M.D., associate professor and chief of the division.

Patients are seen at the Center for Reproductive Medicine (CRM) clinic.

“We carry out personalized evaluations on every individual or couple we see,” said Michael Lanham, M.D., medical director of the CRM. “Based on an individual’s history, goals and preferences, complete evaluations can include blood work, pelvic imaging and/or semen analysis. With that information, we’re able to diagnose, counsel about and treat a wide range of issues to help guide patients toward their goal of a healthy, successful pregnancy.”

Treatment can range from lifestyle changes, such as exercise and weight-loss plans, to performing in vitro fertilization, which uses sperm to fertilize an egg outside the body.

“While the medical advice we give is important, how we pass it along is just as critical,” Marsh said. “People don’t typically have a team of strangers involved when they contemplate starting or adding new members to a family. We’re sensitive to that, so our staff is as friendly and empathetic as possible. We aim to empower our patients and reassure them in a time of vulnerability.”

Learning in the clinic — and in the lab

While helping families, faculty and staff also play an integral role in educating the future leaders of medicine, with medical students and ob/gyn residents rotating through the clinic. The division also runs a three-year fellowship program with fellows spending 18 months each in the clinic and the research lab.

“That research component is exciting, as our team is constantly investigating important issues,” Marsh said. “Right now, they’re looking at ovarian aging, uterine fibroids, fertility preservation and transgender health, among other things.”

Students also learn in the REI in vitro lab from embryologists who manage and store frozen eggs, sperm and embryos for patients undergoing treatment.

“Our embryologists are highly-trained and know how to handle and properly assess sperm, egg and embryo quality,” Marsh said. “Between discoveries made in our research labs and the work of our embryologists, couples who were previously unable to conceive can now start a family. That’s how you know we’re doing meaningful work.”

Reaching out and looking ahead

The division is committed to expanding its reach both within the state — including a plan to offer clinical services in Midland and Flint in addition to the current clinics in Ann Arbor and Northville — and across the globe.

In fact, Marsh recently returned from a trip to Ghana, where she and her team are helping medical centers expand their research infrastructure and broaden available clinical service options.

“There are so many people around the world we can help when it comes to infertility treatment — a field that is changing rapidly,” Marsh said.

“Just 40 years ago, in vitro fertilization didn’t exist,” she continued. “Now, the research and treatments we perform at Michigan Medicine truly transform the way people expand their families. We’re all fortunate to be a part of this field and a part of this organization.”

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