Pride Life caught up with Doctor Marjorie Dixon to talk about her work as the Medical Director of First Steps Reproductive Health.
How long have you worked in the field of fertility and what inspired you to co-found First Steps Fertility?
I have been caring for patients seeking options for family building for approximately 13 years now. What inspired me to co-found First Steps Fertility was a vision of a place where reproductive-fertility therapies met evidence-based medical care, but was also balanced with compassion for all patients who strive to create their families. My goal was to create an inclusive environment in order to improve the patients’ experience while undergoing treatments, and especially the LGBTQ community who often feel marginalised in a traditional fertility centre. My gay, lesbian and transgendered patients are not infertile; they are in obligate need of eggs, a uterus or sperm.
What services do you offer same-sex couples?
Our services are always expanding to include the most novel, cutting-edge fertility technologies. Therefore, we offer a varied range of services for same-sex couples including, but not limited to:
- Gestational Surrogacy
- Therapeutic donor insemination (TDI)
- IVF/ ICSI/ PGS and PGD (in vitro fertilisation/ intracytoplasmic sperm injection/ pre-implantation genetic screening and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis)
- Donor sperm program
- Donor egg program
- Naturopathic services
- Social workers and counsellors
- Patient support groups
Is there a typical LGBT person who makes use of your services?
No, we see a broad range of patients from the community. The majority are gay and lesbian couples.
What makes First Steps Reproductive Health different from similar agencies?
First Steps Reproductive Health consists of highly trained reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialists and support staff. Our goal is to provide comfort and support as patients take their first steps towards starting their family. This is done while combining the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art technology in order to achieve the best results possible. In addition, we strive to maintain a welcoming and comfortable environment for people of all backgrounds.
What makes us different is the fact that we work closely with the LGBTQ community right here in Toronto. I participate in educational sessions about family building options for the “Pappas and Daddies to be” and “Dykes planning Tykes” parenting classes right here in Toronto. We see first-hand the struggles and obstacles that same-sex couples face when trying to build their families. We note that the desire to have a child is natural for many adults, regardless of their orientation. Our team of doctors, nurses and lab technicians take PRIDE in helping lesbian, gay and transgendered couples become parents. To have these relationships within the community and insights have helped us to provide a specialised program for those needing third-party-assisted reproduction (eggs, sperm or a uterus from a person other than the intended parents).
You have developed IVF 4U, a free iPhone app.
When I created this app, it was with the purpose of improving access to fertility care and something that could be used as an educational tool. It was also primordial that it be both reliable (the world wide web is a vast place) and serve as a public education resource. This app provides fertility information on topics such as optimising fertility, the causes of infertility and medical procedures such as in vitro fertilisation and IVF or cycle monitoring. It includes a free “fertility tracker” which helps patients keep track of essential information related to their cycles and fertility treatments in a convenient and secure way.
What are the success rates of First Steps Fertility?
The answer to this question has too many variables for a single percentage for an answer. It depends on the age of the egg donor, the quality of the sperm, the condition of the endometrial cavity (the surrogate’s uterus), and the quality of the created embryos. For our gay couples, we have the highest success rates/ cycle of all that we do because we are doing IVF with perfect eggs, uteruses and sperm: 70%/cycle. An egg donor is ideally less than 30 years of age, with a normal ovarian reserve (if she’s already had children that’s even better).
Would someone need to travel to Toronto for an initial consultation?
The answer is no. We have so many ways in which we can do the first consultation. The consultation can be done via Skype, teleconferences or in person if they choose to and are able. The technology is advanced and exists; let’s take full advantage of it!
On a personal level which part of your work gives you the greatest satisfaction, and which of your achievements are you proudest of?
I get the greatest satisfaction in seeing the “fruits of our labour”! We at First Steps Reproductive Health pride ourselves on an individualised approach to fertility care/ family building and nothing beats holding the babies in my arms and whispering into their ears, “Do you know how much you were loved even before you came to be? Or do you know how special you are to all of us?” We have First Steps’ babies all around the world: from Japan, to Qatar, the UK, Canada and the USA!
And I am also proud of our next-generation IVF lab; we are leading the curve from a technology standpoint. First Steps had the first baby in the world conceived using AugmentSM, a new IVF technology that involves cytoplasmic mitochondrial transfer and is aimed at improving egg health. Again, seeing that little boy thrive and grow has been a phenomenal experience!
We are proudly Canadian and are blessed to live in a country that acknowledges and supports the parental rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. Toronto hosted World Pride 2014 and we were proud to have supported the festivities. And this is so much more than a job-it’s my vocation! I am blessed to do what I have passion for — growing lovely families!
Now, I have one final question for you — who has a better job than I have?