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Fertility Doctor of the Month: Serena Chen, M.D.

Serena Chen, M.D., Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, Saint Barnabas Medical Center; Director of the Ovum Donation Program at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas.

Fertility doctor Serena Chen’s treatment philosophy is one of “no regrets.” “It’s my job to take all this amazing technology that we have at our fingertips, and fit it into your life in a way that works for you,” she says. “If you give me free reign, unlimited time, insurance coverage and no boundaries, I can make a baby for anyone. But that’s not what it’s about. People may have personal, psychological, mental, financial limitations that don’t allow them to just do whatever I want. We can’t completely control the outcome for everybody, but we can control the “no regrets” part, where you feel like you got all the information you needed to make the right decision for yourself given the circumstances at that time. At the end of the day, if you have a baby, that’s wonderful. But if you don’t have a baby, I want you to feel you did the right thing for yourself and you had the help and support and advice and care that you needed to be able to do that. We need to care for the whole person; I feel that’s a reachable goal.”

FertilityAuthority is pleased to recognize Dr. Serena Chen as Doctor of the Month.

Dr. Chen is passionate, articulate, and dedicated to women’s health and healthcare. If you’ve talked with her or follow her on social media, you probably already know that. She was drawn to reproductive endocrinology and infertility at a time when people were just starting to get pregnant with IVF, and the field seemed experimental and cutting edge. It hasn’t disappointed. “At the time we didn’t have freezing eggs and genetic testing of embryos” (two areas she is particularly interested in). “I feel like every week there’s something new and exciting that can impact the patients, which is very, very cool,” Chen says.

Egg freezing is a huge area of interest. It’s her goal that every reproductive age woman that’s affected with cancer in the United States has counseling about fertility preservation. “Both fields, oncology and reproductive medicine, are now so advanced and can offer so much, we need to do a better job so that everybody knows about that,” she says.

The social egg freezing conversation has facilitated the fertility preservation conversation with cancer patients; it’s raising awareness and “normalizing” it, Chen says. “I think that normalization and a matter of fact-ness is a really good thing, because there’s so much emotion and tension and angst that surrounds these types of questions and concerns. And people shouldn’t have to feel ashamed or scared or nervous about wanting this kind of information. It should be out there and easily accessible. Whether they want or decide to do it or not, they should know all the pros and the cons.”

She’s also very excited about genetic testing and the impact it has and will have on successful fertility treatment. She believes that in the very near future it will be the standard of care that embryos would only be transferred if they are tested for genetic abnormalities. “Why wouldn’t we want to know as much about that embryo as we possibly could?” Chen asks. “Everyone in the field knows that you can have a really beautiful embryo that looks high quality by all physical criteria by looking at it under the microscope, and yet it could have some significant genetic abnormalities.”

“Really what we want to know is, what embryo is the baby and which embryo can never be a baby. And that’s the embryo we want to pick. And hopefully we’ll get there at some point.”

Chen recognizes that there are a lot of misconceptions about conception, and a sees a lot of stigma , fear, nervousness and angst about infertility on the patients’ part. “I think we still have a lot of people who are afraid to seek help and come in because there’s a lot of talk about technology and people worry, ‘Is it scary?’ ‘Is it harmful?’ ‘Is it risky?’ And it’s costly. But the reality is that most people that pursue infertility will eventually have success – have a healthy baby.”

“It’s important that you know you have a lot of choice and I’m there to give you advice and keep you safe, not to tell you what to do,” Chen says. “I think that message is really important.”

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