Conducting clinical research while treating patients is the ultimate combination to ensure the most up-to-date care for infertility patients. The fellows and physicians at Women & Infants Fertility Center share their findings and perspectives with each other so each patient ultimately receives input from a team of learned providers.
The REI Fellowship Program is a member of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) and complies with and follows the NRMP guidelines. Applicants should be registered with the NRMP, have a state medical license, and meet ABOG eligibility requirements.
Women & Infants Fertility Center is part of Women & Infants Hospital, one of the country’s most prestigious research hospitals for obstetrics, gynecology, and newborn pediatrics. All of our providers are also on staff at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
In addition to seeing patients, our physicians prioritize their research work. Not only are they the authors of numerous studies related to fertility, they have also played historic roles in the development of reproductive medicine, such as delivering the first baby conceived through donor embryo transplant. Many of our physicians also work across disciplines to develop useful tools based on their research, such as apps and medical devices.
We know that there can be a big difference in the perceptions of outcomes, even successful ones, and the truth. Only by critically evaluating interventions and treatments can we truly know what really happens. We use research to examine if interventions can benefit patients and, importantly, to make sure that they are not detrimental. By taking a closer look at the way we approach treatment, we can improve our own processes and the processes within our field.
Reproductive endocrinology and infertility is a relatively new field. Rapid advancements in technology and science continually change the way we practice, but our research keeps us at the forefront. Because of research, we can also be a part of developing the next cutting-edge interventions.
We see a close link between the work we perform in the lab and the work we perform in the clinic. There is nothing more gratifying than helping a person or couple build their family, and we believe our research allows us to get closer to making sure that every one of our patients has the opportunity to have a baby.
Our discoveries in the field of education research allow us to prepare the next generation of physicians. By working with students at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, we have the opportunity to give back and prepare them for their future careers.
Dr. Meghan Ozcan is in her research year of her fellowship at our clinic. Her research interests include epigenetics (heritable changes in gene activation/deactivation), specifically the impact environmental stressors and diet can have on fertility and sub fertility. Currently she’s working on three research projects.
Dr. Ozcan is using a mouse model to test the impact of the most common chemotherapy agents and regimens on the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries of the fetus. Her goal is to use her findings to empower patients and take fertility preservation into the next generation.
She is exploring in mice whether any changes in the gene’s functionality affect a female’s long-term ovarian reserve. “I hope the findings will eventually translate into insights for our patients,” she says.
Patients of Women & Infants Fertility Center can join the study by contacting the office for the online study link. That link will take users to a scheduler to set up a time for the clinic to call for consent and enrollment.
Dr. May-Tal Sauerbrun-Cutler was a fellow at our clinic before becoming our newest reproductive endocrinologist on staff. As an academic fellow, she split her time between treating fertility patients and researching how immune cells affect infertility.
Some of Dr. Sauerbrun-Cutler’s research focused on a type of immune cell called a regulatory T-cell that lives in the innermost lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. “Immune cells contain factors that could help determine which women will conceive and which won’t,” she says. One of her studies revealed that a woman’s pregnancy rate could decrease if there are too few regulatory T-cells in the endometrium prior to embryo transfer.
While her findings are preliminary, Dr. Sauerbrun-Cutler says her research provides perspective that reproductive immunology could play a role in some fertility disorders. “That’s important,” she says. “I can share this perspective with my patients, especially those who have recurring implantation failures and haven’t found a source for these failures.”
Dr. Jennifer Eaton’s research has focused on using national data to examine factors that influence a woman’s odds of achieving a “good perinatal outcome,” defined as a full-term birth of a single infant with normal birthweight. Dr. Eaton is the chair of the research committee of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), which reports data for over 90% of fertility clinics in the United States. As such, she is nationally renowned for her expertise in assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Her research has previously demonstrated that the use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) does not influence the risk of prematurity or low birth weight. Her work has also shown that the chance of a good perinatal outcome is slightly lower with frozen donor eggs as compared with fresh donor eggs.
Dr. Eaton currently has several ongoing projects using national data to determine the impact of various other factors on IVF success rates and birth outcomes.
While a lot of research is meant to ultimately benefit the patient, some studies are done for the benefit of doctors. For instance, Dr. Carol Wheeler enlisted the residents at Women & Infants Hospital in a multi-center trial to see how effective an online, self-paced education module would be to teach pediatric and adolescent gynecology to medical residents.
Most OB-GYN residents receive very little education in the field of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. Dr. Wheeler and her cohorts set out to determine whether the availability of the online module would improve OB-GYN residents’ knowledge about pre-pubertal vaginal bleeding, how to perform a pre-pubertal genital exam, vaginal culture collection and other skills.
Ninety-seven residents enrolled in the study. Nearly half were randomly selected as a control group; the others were placed in an interventional group, meaning they were required to take the online training.
The study found that the group that underwent the interventional training scored significantly higher on their final assessments than the control group
“The findings from this research will ultimately benefit infertility patient care by enabling more physicians to be better trained in how to talk to, diagnose and treat girls with gynecologic problems,” Dr. Wheeler says. Gynecologic issues such as developmental anomalies can alter a girl’s future reproductive potential, and managing them properly from the beginning is critical. As academic physicians, we are always teaching our residents and students how to care for women of all ages. This study helps us learn the best teaching methods.
Seeking care at a world-class academic center like Women & Infants Hospital means you’ll receive the latest treatments available. One main reason is that research studies and the collection of comprehensive clinical data from multiple doctors are integral parts of the operating missions of both the hospital and our Fertility Center.
When it comes to infertility treatments, it behooves patients to consider a fertility center at which research is a core value. Reputable providers follow evidence-based medicine and guidelines to ensure patients receive the highest quality care.
At our clinic, academic fellows and physicians practice medicine while continually conducting studies and reviewing literature. Their fertility treatment recommendations are based on properly performed trials with data to support the intended outcomes.
“Patients should want the best treatment based on trials,” says Dr. May-Tal Sauerbrun-Cutler, who is board certified in reproductive endocrinology & infertility (REI) at Women & Infants Fertility Center. “There’s so much misinformation out there about fertility treatments, a lot of it about new interventions. But those may not be helpful and possibly could be harmful.”
Original publications in peer-reviewed journals
Published abstracts and scientific presentations
Ongoing research and scholarly activity