B. Seifer, MD, professor in the Department of Obstetrics,
Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UMDNJ-Robert Wood
Johnson Medical School and Director of the Division of Reproductive
Endocrinology and Infertility, with 3-year-old twins Rachel
and Bianca DiSanto.
Seifer poses for a picture with Rachel and Bianca DiSanto,
his face lights up. The 3-year-old twins playing to the camera
are charmers - one shy, one outgoing - both strangely fearless
in this medical milieu and full of giggles and energy.
fact of their existence is a testament to modern medicine
- and, of course, to this medical practitioner. As the specialty
of reproductive endocrinology leaps from one discovery to
the next, success is more the norm than failure. Seifer says
that that is the beauty of the medical specialty he has chosen
waitingroom table in his medical suite, where patients come
to seek remedies for their infertility, sits a Winnie the
Pooh photo album filled with pictures of infants and toddlers.
These photos are sent by proud parents, evidence of the success
of this medical practice and also a statement about the strong
sense of connectedness they feel to the medical team that
has taken care of them.
DiSanto, the twins' mother, sends pictures of the girls each
holiday season and visits periodically. She describes Seifer
as "a gentle man, thoughtful and compassionate, someone who
cares about making the medical experience a good one." Infertility
breeds anxiety and pain for those who want children, and many
of the patients who come to this clinic have already hit a
wall in their search for remedies.
get crazy, desperate when you're infertile," says Ellen Ruane,
who got pregnant by in vitro fertilization and gave birth
at age 38 to a healthy girl. "You need a doctor who's calming,
reasonable, articulate and on top of his game professionally.
That's Dr. Seifer."
sense of reassuring calm, coupled with a determination to
"see the whole picture," is what this reproductive endocrinologist
is all about. He works to pose the just-right question, knowing
that poised on the back of each answered question is another
begging equal time. "Passionate" is the word he uses to describe
his involvement in the search for answers. The scientific
method is the motif of his practice, his research and his
teaching. "I teach this approach to medical students and residents,"
he explains, "how to think about something, instead of what
to think about it." His emphasis is on active learning and
has served him well, shaping him into the quintessential physician-scientist.
It compels him to closely observe each clinical encounter
and then to develop a hypothesis about why it's occurring,
which leads him to the laboratory to construct an experiment
that, in turn, will lead him to new insights and conclusions.
"The lens of research has helped me take better care of my
patients," he observes. It has allowed him to appreciate subtle
relationships and connections between abnormalities of reproductive
physiology and the lack of successful conception and, at times,
to be able to offer a more effective clinical approach.
is rapidly evolving. All of the technologies currently in
use on a daily basis - from in vitro fertilization to pre-implantation
genetics - were developed in the past two decades, Seifer
notes. The next five to 10 years look equally promising to
him. Preserving the fertility of young women undergoing chemotherapy
for cancer is just one of the accessible goals he sees on
the horizon. Stem cells also hold great therapeutic promise,
says that caring for patients in this particular specialty
is "so compelling." With a practice of "primarily physically
healthy individuals who want to have a family," he can deal
with "quality of life issues rather than life-or-death situations."
personal philosophy blends seamlessly with his doctoring.
Having and raising children "is one of life's greatest privileges,"
he says. "For me to take part in that is so life- and self-affirming."
scientific questions he is wrestling with go back to one of
his very early interests - the mechanisms of aging. His research
over the past 10 to 15 years has focused on the aging of the
ovary, specifically the follicle. "We can pretty much overcome
any fertility issues now, but we can't yet overcome reproductive
aging," he comments. "Those who delay childbearing are our
system shows the earliest signs of aging in the body, he comments;
and basic information derived from this research will yield
insights into the aging process in general, which may be applicable
to slowing down this process. Seifer is also working to characterize
a family of growth factors that have so far only been described
in animals, but may have particular potential for follicular
development and egg maturation in humans. His research has
been funded for more than 10 years by the NIH.
else does a top doc do? Seifer serves on the editorial boards
of Fertility and Sterility, the primary publication for this
specialty, and the Journal of Pelvic Medicine and Surgery.
He is co-editor of several physician textbooks, including
Clinical Reproductive Medicine, The Physiologic Basis of Gynecology
and Obstetrics, and Office Infertility: Practice and Procedures.
He is a member of the FDA Review Panel on obstetrical and
gynecologic medical devices and a member of an NIH study section
that reviews ongoing research eligible for federal funding
in this field. He is also a Board Examiner for physicians
seeking certification to practice both obstetrics and gynecology
and reproductive endocrinology.
says a top doc in reproductive endocrinology must have a top
team composed of health care professionals who are highly
intuitive and compassionate, including embryologists who are
outstanding communicators as well as technically competent.
That he has.
this skilled and caring team - together with their "top doc"
- that helps many would-be parents realize their dreams, and
changes family portraits for generations to come.