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Fertility Doctor of the Month: Zev Rosenwaks, MD

Zev Rosenwaks, MD, Director, The Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College and the New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY

January 2013

Dr. Rosenwaks is a well-known fertility doctor at a well-known New York City fertility center. His reputation precedes him as a clinician, a researcher, an educator, a lecturer and an author. For his outstanding contributions to the field of infertility, we are pleased to honor Zev Rosenwaks, MD, as FertilityAuthority's Doctor of the Month.

We wondered what makes him tick. It turns out that the things that piqued his interest and caused him to enter the field 30 years ago are still what interests him today. “It might surprise you, but I’m as fascinated by the simple or obvious things that we see in reproduction as much as I am by the most sophisticated,” Rosenwaks says. By “simple” or “obvious” he means cervical mucus, the developing endometrium and the physiology of the menstrual cycle, the mechanism of a developing follicle, what leads to the LH surge and ovulation.

An extraordinary professor and mentor sealed the deal, and Rosenwaks entered the field as a clinician and an educator.

Assisted reproduction allows fertility doctors to dissect the reproductive processes and actually look at the eggs and the sperm, look at the embryo and see how it develops, and look at why some embryos implant and why some don’t. “There’s nothing about reproduction that doesn’t fascinate me,” he adds.

A World Renowned Fertility Program

Rosenwaks cites his biggest accomplishment as developing the infertility program at The Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine. (We thought he would name a scientific advancement, a stimulation protocol, or that his practice did the first egg donor cycle in the U.S.) “I think the fact that we developed a program here at the medical school [Weill Cornell Medical College and the New York Presbyterian Hospital] that was virtually a very, very small program when we started to a large leading program in terms of its accomplishments scientifically and clinically, is probably most important to me. And also the fact that we did it in a way that people who work here love to come to work here,” he adds.

A Fertility Treatment Philosophy

According to Rosenwaks, his philosophy is to treat couples and women in a way in a way that reduces complications while increasing success rates. “It’s not just about getting a pregnancy, but getting a pregnancy in the safest possible way,” Rosenwaks says. An example? Working to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. He concedes that you can’t control everything, but he advocates fertility treatment in a gentle enough way that is as close to nature as possible.

Three Decades of IVF

I asked Rosenwaks about a keynote presentation he’s given, “Three Decades of IVF: What Have We Learned?” Thirty years is a lot to cover, but it boils down to this. Assisted reproduction has allowed physicians to separate the different steps in the human reproduction processes, so that they can observe things that previously there were only assumptions about. For example, with IVF, we’re able to look at the eggs, fertilize them, see what happens after fertilitzation, see how the embryos develop, and study embryo and endometrial interaction. All the developments of IVF provided learning points along the way. Today, PGD allows a look at the genetics of the embryo. And as women are delaying pregnancy, IVF allows fertility doctors to understand ovarian response and egg quality in women 40 and older.

A Baby At Last

At the beginning of this profile, I referred to Dr. Rosenwaks as an educator and an author. “In general, we’re by nature teachers – we’re in academic medicine because we like to teach. After we wrote several professional books, it became obvious that it was time to write one for the patients as well,” Rosenwaks says. In 2010, he co-authored A Baby At Last! (Touchstone), with his colleague Dr. Marc Goldstein. They decided to work together to focus on both the female male aspects of infertility; Dr. Goldstein is a urologist. On the subject of patient education, when asked what the big takeaway is for patients, Rosenwaks says, “The overriding message has always been that couples, and particularly women, need to be aware of the fact that reproduction is very much dependent on their age, and that waiting reduces your chance for achieving a pregnancy.” That, and you need to have a healthy lifestyle to promote normal sperm and egg development.


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