Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 2:17 p.m.
Dr. Geoffrey Sher, M.D., executive medical director of Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine, has long focused his professional energies on pushing the boundaries of medical science with the hope of finding newer and better treatment options so more men and women can fulfill their dream of having children.
An internationally recognized leader in the field of Assisted Reproductive Technology, Sher has been instrumental in the births of more than 16,000 In Vitro Fertilization babies over the course of his career, having had the singular opportunity to train under British obstetrician and gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, who was largely responsible for developing IVF in the 1970s.
“I originally met Patrick Steptoe when I was a young doctor in South Africa,” said Sher, a South Africa native who completed his medical training there. “Dr. Steptoe was personal friends with the secretary of the Royal Fertility Society, and (the secretary) and I were sitting in the hot tub drinking beer one snowy night, and he picked up a mobile phone that weighed about five pounds and called (Dr. Steptoe) and said ‘I want you to take this young colonial and teach him,’ and Steptoe remembered me, and invited me to come to England and learn how to do IVF. I came back to the U.S. and established a practice and that’s when I really got started.”
Indeed, Sher opened the first private IVF program in the United States in 1982 in Reno, eventually establishing similar programs in California.
“We realized the field was growing and we had the ability to roll this thing out all over the U.S., so we raised outside funds, and then they became the owners, and they did things all wrong, so I resigned from my own program. They bought me out at the age of 50, and I took the money and my business partner and I left L.A. for Las Vegas,” Sher said.
The risk paid off. Currently, Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine is a national network of fertility clinics with numerous locations, including Dallas, New York City, St. Louis, Sacramento, Peoria, Ill., New Jersey, and Las Vegas.
Leaders in IVF research, Sher and his medical team have made numerous breakthroughs, each of which has been incorporated into SIRM treatment protocols. This includes using a new genetic test – comparative genomic hybridization, or CGH – to show in 2007 that an embryo resulting from fertilization of an egg that has all of its chromosomes present has an improved ability to implant successfully and produce a normal baby. This method can vastly improve IVF results and lead to single-embryo transfers, minimizing the risk of multiple pregnancies. In 2008, Sher was the first to apply CGH to the selection of chromosomally intact eggs for cryobanking, leading to an eight-fold improvement in the birth rate per cryobanked egg.
“A lot of clinics freeze eggs, but no other clinic genetically tests and freezes eggs,” said Sher, who in 2009 treated patients from 22 countries. “Since the very first frozen egg baby was born, no more than 500 to 600 such babies have been born, but in one fell swoop we published on the fact that we had 18 babies born in the first batch. It’s a privilege and a joy as a doctor to make these contributions.”