Dr. Rusty Herbert - A Physician's Odyssey

Dr. Rusty Herbert - A Physician's Odyssey

November 23, 2010

I was born in 1948 in North Carolina to a red headed father who, sure that I would have similar coloring, nick-named me “Rusty”.  My father was an Ob/Gyn who eventually established his practice in Gainesville, Florida where I grew up in what was then a small southern town. Although the 1950s and 60s were interesting times in the deep south, we were quite fortunate to live in a “university” town with the University of Florida providing an important intellectual and social influence, which wasn’t present in other areas surrounding us. My father was from Manasquan, New Jersey and my mother from Brooklyn, New York, so my siblings (a family of five children) and I were mostly educated in the northeast after primary schooling in Florida. I graduated from high school, The Peddie School, and college, Rutgers University, in the garden state of New Jersey. During one summer of my college years, the summer of 1968, yes, the summer after “the summer of love”, I lived and worked in San Francisco, which is probably a major reason I now reside here. After college graduation, I returned home to attend the University of Florida where I earned an MS degree in Environmental Engineering Sciences and subsequently an MD degree, making me a fourth-generation physician.

I spent one year in St. Louis at Washington University as an intern in Ob/Gyn where I met fellow residents and long time friends Drs. Elliot and Denise Main, as well as my future wife, Katharine. At years end I moved to Nashville, Tennessee and completed both a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. While at Vanderbilt, Katharine and I enjoyed working together.  She as a nurse-midwife and I was a resident.  After the birth of our first child, Katharine became involved with county health care programs and I began my fellowship. I joined the Vanderbilt teaching faculty upon completion of my fellowship and served as the Director of the Reproductive Endocrinology / Infertility Division from 1989-90.

Early in my medical career, I had the good fortune to participate in some “firsts” in the field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility. While at Vanderbilt University, I did pioneering work with the first laser laparoscope and was involved with one of the first assisted reproductive technology programs in the United States. I authored several early articles on endoscopic surgery, including one of the very first articles published on the treatment of tubal disease via laser laparoscopy. I was also fortunate to be a part of those early difficult and formative years in the area of IVF and contributed to numerous articles as we tried to create additional and better ways for success.  

In 1990 I was recruited by the original Pacific Fertility Centers to join their San Francisco clinic, where I was appointed Medical Director. However, desiring to create my own concepts for care, I left PFC to become a partner and Medical Director with the San Francisco Center for Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Chenette joined me very soon thereafter. With much hard work and help from many of our current staff, SFCRM became a leading center for infertility care and assisted reproductive technology services in Northern California. In November of 1999, Dr Chenette and I joined forces with Drs. Givens, Ryan, and Schriock and took over the management of the current Pacific Fertility Center. Our vision was to create a center of excellence that was large enough to do good clinical research and answer some of the important clinical questions in our field. We all came from academic backgrounds and knew the benefits of collegial interaction, but felt there was a better way to offer patient-centered services. PFC is the culmination of our collective dreams and ambitions to create such an optimal center. We are indeed proud of the result.

After years of clinical practice in our field, I find I am most drawn to the numerous and complex ethical issues which are products of our ever changing technologies. This interest has led me to diverse activities as a 22 year membership in the Society for Humanism in Medicine, including the 2003 presidency, and a planned speaking engagement this year at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, regarding the ethical issues involving children conceived through reproductive technology.

When there is the “extra” time away from medicine, I enjoy the excitement of international travel, the pleasure of a good bottle of Burgundian wine, the stretch of great contemporary jazz music, and the stimulation of a unique piece of art. I have taken on the “egg” image as a passion for collecting and now own a wonderful group of vintage and modern photographs as well as “eggs” in other media, some of which you will see in our office. I have two wonderful daughters, Sarah and Rachel, and I feel so very fortunate to count myself as one of those who arise each morning looking for this day to be better than the last.  ” When you don’t know something can’t be done, it makes it possible to do.”  -Brother Thomas Bezanson  

Dr. Rusty Herbert, M.D.

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By Shelley Donato
July 05, 2011
Dr. Herbert, I was given your name by Dr. Alan Berkley, a neighbor of mine in Scarsdale, NY. I was seeking advice from Alan about my 28 yr. old daughter who was diagnosed with MS at age 20. She has been taking one of the disease-modifying interferon agents ever since and is feeling well. However, now that she has married and is contemplating becoming pregnant, my husband and I are very concerned about post-partum issues and the frequently negative impact on women with MS. Alan suggested you because my daughter and her husband live in San Francisco. While I realize this issue may be beyond the scope of your practice, I would love some advice if you have any to share. Obviously, we would love Sarah to consider using a surrogate thereby avoiding pregnancy altogether, but she does not really embrace this idea. If you have any wisdom, advice we would be most grateful.
July 13, 2011
Shelley, Dr. Berkley is a good physician and a friend. I appreciate his confidence. However, as you mention, this is a bit outside my area of expertise. What I know is the interferon medications are not recommended for women planning to get pregnant and there some women whose MS symptoms worsen after delivery. Whether that deterioration would be prevented if these women stayed on their medications or not, I do not know. There are several physicians at UCSF who specialize in MS and perhaps they could provide your daughter with better consultation about her options. Dr. Stephen Hauser is an excellent physician with lots of expertise in MS. If I can be of other assistance with recommendations or treatment, I would be happy to do so. Your daughter can simply contact my office for an appointment. Sincerely, Carl M. Herbert, M.D.

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