Education, Opportunities, and Hope for the Future of Fertility
One in ten couples suffers from infertility. Approximately 44% of women with infertility have sought medical assistance and of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% will give birth. Infertility can be a complex and difficult condition for many patients to manage. Winifred Mak, MD, PhD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist and a part of UT Health Austin’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility care team, is working to simplify the treatment process, streamline communication, and offer the most advanced therapies available to patients seeking services.
“Infertility can be a female or male condition and can be caused by a range of issues such as irregular periods, fallopian tube issues, fibroids, early menopause, decreased sperm count, sperm motility, lack of sperm and more,” explains Dr. Mak. “Same-sex couples and other members of the LGBTQ community also often seek fertility treatment options to begin or to continue to build their families.”
UT Health Austin offers treatment options including Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), egg and sperm donor, third-party reproduction, LGBTQ family planning, egg freezing, counseling and wellness, genetic testing and more. (In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) will be offered in the future). “We offer comprehensive diagnostic testing and are well equipped to treat the entire breadth of infertility diagnoses. We pride ourselves on offering a unique personalized patient experience in a comfortable environment,” says Dr. Mak. “This is a very difficult and often stressful time for many of our patients and it is our job to make them feel as much at ease as possible while we figure out the best pathway to move forward together.”
Dr. Mak explains that while in medical school she fell in love with delivering babies and decided specializing in ob-gyn was something she wanted to do. After medical school, she worked as a resident in the ObGyn at the University of Cambridge in England, where the world’s first IVF baby was conceived and her connection to that environment led her to be very involved with research specifically in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.
She has since served as Assistant professor in the Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences Department and Director of the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program at Yale School of Medicine where she focused on the full range of reproductive endocrinology diseases, including infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She says that she has made it her life-long career mission to use her research studies to help build families and give her patients 110% of her effort.
More recently, Dr. Mak joined as an Assistant Professor in the Dell Medical School Women’s Health Department, which means that education and training medical students and residents is also a huge part of her mission here in Austin. “I came here to Austin and to The University of Texas for the opportunity to start something new - to build a reproductive endocrinology and infertility division from the ground up. It has been very exciting with a lot of energy, so I’m thrilled to be here and contribute to the community and educate the learners as well,” she says.
One of the biggest projects Dr. Mak has been tasked with since starting work at the Dell Medical School has been to launch an affordable, low complexity fertility/REI clinic to bring services and high-quality care to those who may not normally have access to it. The Esperanza clinic is a Dell Med resident-run clinic that will provide services including consultations, hysterosalpingograms, semen analysis and more for patients at a discounted rate. “We have seen a huge need and lot of interest in the community for a clinic like this and my hope is that it will not only be a great service to the community but also an excellent educational opportunity for the Dell Med ob-gyn residents,” says Dr. Mak.
Dr. Mak is also involved with a new oncofertility program launching in 2019 at UT Health Austin in partnership with the Livestrong Foundation that will focus on coordinating the care for cancer patients looking to preserve their fertility. “With this new program we hope to bring the most cutting-edge fertility preservation techniques” she says.
Furthermore, Dr. Mak has a special interest in couples experiencing multiple miscarriages and she will continue her research program to investigate why miscarriages happen. In addition she looks forward to start up a recurrent pregnancy loss program with focus on a multidisciplinary team approach.