Why Texas Fertility Center?
When patients of ours move to other cities, they typically ask us to refer them to a specialist who could continue their care. We have each noticed that when we provide them with a couple of names, they frequently ask us why we chose those particular specialists over many others in the same area. This made us realize that many couples with infertility in Central Texas may be thinking the same thing about TFC – why should they come see us?
Our Fertility Center Goals
From the moment that we decided to dedicate our careers to the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, we each made many commitments. First and foremost, we wanted to develop a patient-centric practice that would provide best in class care in a nurturing, yet state of the art environment. In addition, however, we all made the conscious commitment to be more than fertility specialists.
We wanted to perform cutting edge scientific research and be strong patient advocates, while helping train future leaders in our field. We also wanted to use our business and management expertise to help pharmaceutical and biotech companies develop the next generation of fertility treatments while working with managed care and Fortune 500 companies to expand insurance coverage to more couples suffering from infertility.
Finally, we all wanted to develop a mechanism through which some of our fortunate patients and other philanthropic Texans could help us provide resources to raise awareness of infertility as a curable disease, fund worthy scientific research, and help others who lack the means or insurance coverage to pursue fertility treatment.
Who We Are
Although thousands of our patients have benefited from these endeavors, we have never actually taken the time to tell the TFC story; how we strive every day to fulfill our mission of turning couples into families, and why patients should choose TFC. In the hope of enlightening our existing patients, as well as trying to convince infertile couples who are not yet seeing us that perhaps they should, we would like to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about our practice.
Founded in 1980, by Dr. Thomas Vaughn, TFC has grown to become the largest and one of the most successful fertility practices from Atlanta to Los Angeles. All of our physicians are doubly board certified – in Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility as well as Obstetrics & Gynecology – and all patients therefore see a Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist at every visit; 7 days a week, 365 days a year, unless they elect to see our sonographer who is available for early morning appointments for patients who desire to be seen at the beginning of their day. We also offer multiple office locations – from Round Rock to South Austin – to make coming to our office as convenient as possible.
Our practice is limited to the comprehensive diagnosis of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, as well as complex endoscopic surgery. The term comprehensive is important, as we offer our patients the very latest in testing and treatment from pre-conceptual genetic evaluation – testing future parents before they even attempt to conceive – to the genetic screening of embryos prior to their transfer during in vitro fertilization. Our medical treatments run the gamut from Clomid, Femara, metformin, steroids, and bromocriptine to the injectable gonadotropins. Likewise, we offer every type of fertility surgical procedure – from open to laparoscopic to robotic – to treat any type of disease process affecting fertility.
Embryology and Andrology
Our CLIA-certified andrology laboratory performs all types of sperm evaluation and sperm function testing to determine the optimal treatment choice for men with low sperm count or poor sperm function. Our laboratories are recognized for excellence and in fact, our laboratory director, Tom Turner, and Dr. Kaylen Silverberg actually write the chapter in the Textbook of Assisted Reproductive Technology on sperm evaluation.
Our andrologists also prepare sperm specimens for intrauterine insemination (IUI), choosing from among several different preparation methods in order to maximize the total number of rapidly moving sperm for insemination. In cases of severe male factor infertility, our andrologists and embryologists work together to isolate and prepare even extremely low numbers of sperm for fertilization or injection directly into eggs. In the most extreme cases of male factor – those following previous vasectomy or for men with genetic obstructions or other abnormalities – our embryologists work with Central Texas’ finest urologists to produce babies from cases in which we have had even fewer than twenty total sperm to work with.
When couples need advanced treatment using the assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), they can be comfortable knowing that Central Texas’ largest IVF program is again prepared to offer anything that they need. From frozen eggs – where we are the only program in Texas to have produced healthy children from both donor and non-donor vitrified eggs – to novel stimulation protocols, laser-assisted embryo hatching, and complete genetic embryo screening, TFC has proven time and again to be a worldwide leader.
For nearly three decades, TFC has been providing sperm freezing services to men who have been diagnosed with cancer or other serious medical illness. They contact TFC in order to bank sperm before they are treated with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, as they know that each of these treatments can significantly impair their future fertility. Many of these men have come back to us for fertility treatment after surviving their disease.
Fortunately, due to the expertise of our embryologists and andrologists, we have been able to help an overwhelming percentage of these men conceive healthy children. We have also been providing sperm freezing services to many men in the armed forces who want to bank sperm prior to military deployment. Although they are still fertile when they return from active duty and hopefully will never need to use the sperm that we have for them, they still benefit from peace of mind knowing that their partner has access to their sperm should they desire to use it. We were all overwhelmed when we were recently presented with a certificate of appreciation from the United States Department of the Army in recognition of the service that we have provided to our men and women in uniform.
In addition to offering services to men, with the success of our oocyte vitrification program, we are also now able to offer fertility preservation services to women. We can freeze eggs for women who have been diagnosed with cancer or other serious medical illness prior to their treatment with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Once they are cured, they can return to use their eggs.
We also partner with the Komen Foundation for the Cure as well as Fertile Hope through the Livestrong Foundation, in order to provide these services to seriously ill men and women at a significantly reduced cost. Although many fertility programs may tell you that they can “freeze eggs”, TFC is the only program in Texas that has had healthy babies delivered from both patient and donor eggs that we have frozen in our laboratory.
For those women who need surgical correction of their infertility, such as treatment of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, intrauterine or pelvic adhesions, or genetic abnormalities, each TFC physician is qualified to use any advanced technique required to optimally correct the problem. We all prefer to use surgical lasers through the laparoscope rather than older methodologies, such as electrosurgery or cautery, in order to lessen the risk of causing pelvic adhesion (scar tissue) formation.
We also remove fibroids microsurgicaly, whether through the laparoscope, the da Vinci Robot, or through a small lower abdominal incision, in order to minimize the development of scar tissue, shorten your post-operative recovery, and get you back to full function as fast as possible. We have privileges at all of the main hospitals and surgery centers in the greater Austin area, from Cedar Park to South Austin, and we have contracts with all of Central Texas’ major insurance plans, in order to minimize the financial toll that fertility treatment can take on our patients.
The Texas Fertility Center Clinical Staff
As noted above, however, there are many reasons other than our technical expertise that will hopefully lead you to choose TFC. Every patient is assigned to a specific office nurse who, working seamlessly with your physician, is well versed about the many factors involved in your particular clinical situation. Patients who need treatment with either IVF or donor eggs have an additional nurse assigned to their case to specifically answer all of their questions about these more complex treatments.
Our billing team benefits from the presence and expertise of several staff who used to work for insurance companies. Their experience often proves invaluable in helping our patients optimize their insurance benefits.
Our team of outstanding embryologists and andrologists is lead by Tom Turner, who has been our Laboratory Director since 1993. Tom performed the world’s first GIFT procedures in the 1980’s, and is recognized world-wide as a true pioneer, thought leader, and problem solver in the IVF field.
Mental Health and Acupuncture
We recognize that fertility diagnosis and treatment can be stressful, and we therefore work with Central Texas’ leading counselors who are there to help you every step of the way. We specifically do not have a counselor on our staff as we recognize that different couples have different needs; we want you to seek care from someone with whom you do connect, rather than someone with whom we think you should connect. We also encourage the use of ancillary services such as acupuncture.
Again, we work collaboratively with the leading acupuncture specialists in the greater Austin area and communicate directly with them in order to successfully integrate their recommendations into your treatment.
The field of infertility is not static. Things change dramatically and rapidly. In order to keep us on the cutting edge, we established our own Research Department in 1995. Since that time, we have worked with every leading company in the fertility field in order to help develop and test medications, new treatment protocols, and new surgical techniques that directly benefit our patients.
These research studies – in addition to providing valuable information to the manufacturers and governmental agencies that oversee these studies –have enabled hundreds of our patients to receive free or low-cost treatment that has lead to the successful delivery of hundreds of healthy babies. Just as we provide comprehensive fertility diagnosis and treatment, we also perform comprehensive research.
We help to develop the actual research protocols, we perform the research, we present our findings at national and international meetings, we publish our research findings in professional journals such as Fertility & Sterility and Human Reproduction, and we testify before the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to encourage the approval of beneficial products and treatments. In addition to publishing our research in peer reviewed journals, each of our partners also write book chapters in the leading textbooks of infertility and IVF. Specifically, we write the chapters on Endometriosis and Adenomyosis, Sperm Evaluation, the significance of tubal disease prior to IVF treatment, and Unexplained Infertility.
Our chapters are considered to be authoritative works, and are routinely referenced by other international fertility experts in their own publications. Much of our research has received national and international recognition, and our physicians are routinely asked to present our findings at major infertility meetings throughout the world. Only TFC conducts, presents, publishes, and has been recognized for outstanding research in the Central Texas area.
All of our physicians have been actively involved in medical education, training medical students and residents, since fellowship. After completing their infertility fellowships, Dr. Vaughn served on the faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Dr. Silverberg served on the faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Since 2004, TFC has been responsible for the Reproductive Endocrinology training of OB/GYN residents at Brackenridge Hospital sponsored by the University of Texas – first from the Galveston branch and now from Southwestern Medical School. As part of their education, we have a second year resident assisting us in the office and in the operating room every day.
The TFC physicians host continuing medical education programs for the OB/GYNs in Austin at least four times per year, where we discuss the latest advances in the treatment of infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, reproductive surgery, and in vitro fertilization. We also founded the Texas ART Society in 1991. Originally composed of the physicians who perform IVF in Texas and started as a way to share information between our practices, this society has now grown to include physicians, embryologists, nurses, mental health professionals, and practice administrators from around the country. Our annual meeting, the Southwest Fertility Forum, features expert speakers from around the country and attracts hundreds of attendees for a weekend focused on improving the success of IVF.
Most importantly, we host monthly educational seminars for our patients. Our IVF orientation is very well attended, and offers our patients the opportunity to learn about ovarian stimulation protocols, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer from our physicians, and laboratory procedures including ICSI, laser-assisted embryo hatching, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis from our embryologists. Our Fertility 101 seminars provide new and future patients with information about the basic causes, evaluation, and treatment of infertility. Again, only TFC provides resident training, continuing medical education for Central Texas OB/GYNs, a nationally renowned IVF meeting, and this level of education for our patients.
Medical Staff Leadership
Rather than merely serving on the medical staffs in our community, the TFC physicians have assumed positions of leadership. Dr. Vaughn served as the Chief of Staff at Seton Medical Center, and Drs. Vaughn, Silverberg, and Hansard have all served on the Medical Executive Committees and/or Governing Boards at Bailey Square Surgery Center and the North Austin Surgery Center. Our physicians have also served on numerous committees in the Travis County Medical Society, the Texas Medical Association, and TEXPAC.
We have also held leadership positions in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART),the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI), and the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society (PCRS).
Consulting with Industry
The field of Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility is a small one, with fewer than 1000 Board Certified physicians in the United States. As such, relationships are very important – not only with our patients, but also with our colleagues and with pharmaceutical and surgical equipment manufacturers. TFC physicians have very close relationships with each of the leading pharmaceutical manufacturers in our field. They recognize our practice for excellence in research, which is why they ask us to participate in every major infertility research study. In addition to participating in research, our physicians are thought leaders in our field.
We consult regularly with the leading companies in the pharmaceutical, surgical, and biotechnology industries and serve on many Medical Advisory Boards in order to help identify new technologies and treatments that may serve to benefit our patients. We also consult with several Fortune 500 companies and insurance companies in order to help broaden coverage of infertility for infertility patients at large. Our recommendations and treatment protocols have actually been demonstrated to reduce the cost of fertility coverage for large employers.
One, Southwest Airlines, was so pleased by our efforts that they co-authored and helped us publish a large study in Fertility and Sterility showing how covering infertility diagnosis and treatment has actually helped them save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Other nationwide employers are using the Southwest plan that we developed as a model for their own employee benefit programs. Only TFC can claim these accomplishments.
Advocacy and Legislative Lobbying
Expanding coverage for fertility patients involves several things – not the least of which is convincing our legislators that infertility is a disease. In the pursuit of this effort, both Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Silverberg have testified repeatedly over the years before the Texas state legislature. Our efforts were rewarded when the legislature passed laws permitting and protecting the use of donor sperm, donor eggs, and donor embryos for the citizens of Texas. Since that time, we have continued to mount an aggressive effort designed to further expand coverage.
Our most recent focus has been in Washington DC, where we have actively lobbied for the Fertility Family Act of 2011, which has now been introduced into both houses of Congress for consideration. This act calls for a $13,360 lifetime tax credit for couples who are pursuing fertility treatment – analogous to the credit that couples who pursue adoption currently receive. We have met with our Congressmen, their staffs, and lobbyists who work on behalf of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to educate them about the importance of this legislation and solicit their support.
Dr. Silverberg also serves as an advisor to Congressmen Michael McCaul, Lamar Smith, and John Carter about issues related to healthcare in general. In this capacity, he works to keep them aware of how new legislation such as the Affordable Care Act affect the quality and cost of medical care that the citizens of Central Texas receive. Only TFC physicians have worked to develop these important relationships and spend our time actively working on these issues.
With the establishment of the Fertility Foundation of Texas, a new charitable foundation conceived by TFC, we will soon be able to enlist the assistance of individuals and companies throughout Central Texas to help us raise awareness about infertility as a curable disease. The foundation has three main purposes: to raise awareness about infertility, to provide funding to patients who cannot otherwise afford fertility treatment, and to fund research related to the diagnosis and/or treatment of infertility.
Over the years we have been approached by many grateful patients who have wanted to be able to help other, less fortunate couples reach their dreams. This foundation provides a mechanism through which patients, forward thinking companies, and philanthropic entities in our area can help those who continue to struggle with infertility.
We hope that this information demonstrates to you that TFC is truly more than an infertility practice. Our commitment to excellence in patient care has resulted in the birth of over 14,000 babies, helping us fulfill our mission of turning couples into families. Hopefully you now know many answers to the question WHY TFC? We hope that you will choose to allow us to help you fulfill your dreams of having a family.