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Doctor of the Month: David L. Keefe, M.D.


David L. Keefe, M.D.
Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
NYU Langone Medical Center
NYU (New York University) Fertility Center

April 2010

“I try to shepherd patients through a trying experience with a compassionate approach.”

Dr. David Keefe is more than a fertility doctor. Yes, he trained in reproductive endocrinology at Yale, but he is also a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and a researcher who has studied egg quality on a cellular basis for the last 12 years. Keefe has a clinical practice at NYU Fertility Center and is Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU School of Medicine in New York. He is also on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

Trained in Psychiatry

Keefe says his training in psychiatry and the therapeutic process have greatly influenced his work in fertility. “Psychiatrists don’t assume you have the answer,” he says. “I form a partnership with the patient and we go on a voyage in search of the answer.” This approach takes into account the fact that infertility patients aren’t on a clear path. Keefe recognizes that there are a number of treatment options for each patient, each with its own set of risks, benefits, costs and complications.

Keefe enjoyed his surgical training – laparoscopy, hysteroscopy - even calling it “fun,” but, he says, “very little interaction is informed by that type of training.”

“I was trained in psychology by doctors who were well schooled and wise about how to approach disorders. We identify the unique journey and find the right path to optimize the chance to find satisfaction and happiness,” he explains.

Many individuals come to Keefe looking for a second opinion. “Many patients when presented with an option, such as donor egg, might initially say, ‘I would never do that,’" but, he adds, “they end up looking into themselves and come back” to learn more about it.

Examining “Egg Infertility”

Keefe says many researchers believe that the majority of failed IVF is due to a high rate of chromosomal abnormalities, a condition he refers to as “egg infertility.” He sums ups his research interest saying it’s all about “developing a risk profile for someone who is likely to develop bad embryos.” To get more technical, the research evaluates the role of telomeres in human egg quality. Telomeres are the region of DNA at the end of the chromosome that protect the end of the chromosome from damage, thus protecting genetic data and also make cell division possible.

Rattling off information about cell division and chromosomal abnormalities, it’s evident that Keefe has a passion for this research and for the science of reproductive technology, as well as for the patients he hopes it will affect.

It’s this passion and this attitude that prompted to recognize Dr. Keefe as our Doctor of the Month.