Infertility Doctor Shares Highs and Lows of Rewarding Career

Special Reports

IOWA — Dr. Brad Van Voorhis grew up hearing stories about pregnancies and delivering babies from his dad, who was an obstetrician in Sioux City. Once he was in medical school himself, he decided he wanted to help people make babies.

“Infertility affects about fifteen percent of women and couples at some point in their life,” he explains. As the director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Iowa he works to help those patients build their families.

“It’s a stressful condition to have,” he says, “in many cases, people are successful in many aspects of life and what would seem to be a simple thing to do just doesn’t work, and often for unexplained reasons which is the most frustrating aspect of it.”

In Vitro Fertilization – “IVF” is the most effective and common form of what’s known as “assisted reproductive technology”. The University of Iowa has one of the best IVF success rates in the country.

“We have an excellent program that is comprised of a team that does this,” says Van Voorhis. The team approach is somewhat unique. It means multiple doctors, nurses, embryologists, and lab techs are part of evaluating and treating patients.

“Certainly increasingly we are able to help couples and they are through the roof happy about that outcome.  On the other hand, some patients we can’t treat. What we hope is that they know we gave them an honest, great effort to help them in their journey. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t work.”

Most people can’t pursue treatment indefinitely. The biggest barrier is cost.  Most insurance policies don’t cover infertility treatment, or it’s capped at a very low dollar amount.

According to Resolve: The National Infertility Association:

  • one cycle of IVF ranges in price from $12,000 – $17,000
  • add medications and the price can easily be more than $20,000
  • most patients need multiple cycles – on average they spend $40,000 for a baby
  • 39% of patients used credit cards to pay, 12.6% took out loans, 4% used home equity

Dr. Van Voorhis hopes to see those issues decrease. “I think the next frontier is to do these treatments even more simply and increase access to care because in the past it’s been exclusive to only couples who can afford it, and who have the time and energy to do a rigorous treatment.”

It’s an exhausting process, but when it works it’s incredible. “It’s a very rewarding career,” he says, “a lot of changes over time and it keeps you on your toes.”

The University of Iowa just opened a clinic located in West Des Moines:

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