Dr. Philip Chenette- A Physician's Odyssey

Posted on February 8, 2011 by Inception Fertility

My father, a conductor and horn player, expected each of his five children to play an instrument. I turned to Oboe. There are many stories about oboe players, mostly revolving around the fact that playing the oboe is a real challenge; the oboe being “an ill wind that nobody blows good”.

However, I pursued the art and craft of the oboe and learned from some of the top master oboists and conductors of the day. My instructors came from major symphony orchestras in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Chicago. I met and was influenced by world renowned conductors and composers; Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Dika Newlin, and Peter Shickele. Working with masters you learn that, while there are many ways to accomplish a task, the path chosen must be done correctly and pursued with passion.

Many years have passed since I played in an orchestra, but those early experiences are still with me each day I practice medicine. The symphony is a wonderful analogy to describe the work in our practice. In an orchestra there are nearly a hundred individuals of diverse backgrounds, origins, and personalities. There’s a conductor at the helm, working the notes placed on paper by a master of composition. The mastery and craftsmanship, performed by a unified team devoted to a single goal, using all the skills available to them, creates a performance of great beauty and power.

Similarly, at Pacific Fertility Center, the doctors compose a treatment plan and direct the team. We give our staff the best of class tools. Our staff orchestrates the performance; a highly talented group of people applying their best skills to the unique problems of each individual patient. It is an honor to work with the patients that entrust us with their care. We continue to pursue the best in fertility technology and pregnancy rates.

On reflection, perhaps I became interested in fertility medicine because it gave me the same sense of structure, purpose and wonder as playing the oboe as a young student. I was inspired by the announcement of the first pregnancy from in vitro fertilization. The application of medical technology to help a family achieve their dreams was a landmark event. Controversy and hoopla ensued, but the truth stood clear, that a small baby – a new child - was held in its parents’ arms as a result. For me, this was a momentous event that inspired me to attend medical school at Indiana University, residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Magee-Womens’ Hospital, and ultimately a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at USC.

USC was a crucible of fertility technology. Roger Lobo was performing extraordinary work on ovulation induction and PCOS. Some of the pioneers of IVF and oocyte donation were rewriting the book on fertility care. Lobo, Rick Paulson and Mark Sauer published the first report of oocyte donation in women over 40 years of age (New England Journal of Medicine, 1990). The protocol diagram in that paper is my design.

After completing fellowship, I returned to Chicago to join Anne Wentz in developing the program for in vitro fertilization at Northwestern University. Anne came from the Gerogeanna and Howard Jones Institute tradition, and was a real master of the embryo transfer. We established a successful program synthesizing the best of East and West coast protocols, advancing the theory and practice of embryo transfer, developing new techniques for male fertility problems, and developing fertility preservation for endangered species.

California called me back, and I joined Pacific Fertility Center (PFC) in San Francisco in 1991. At PFC, I was fortunate to meet Dr. Herbert who later established The San Francisco Center for Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Herbert’s vision of patient-centric fertility care was pioneering and contemplated my own interests in quality care. In 1999, we carried this vision forward joining with Drs. Schriock, Givens, and Ryan from the University of California to form Pacific Fertility Center as we know it today.

Being an early member of the profession, I have been blessed with many opportunities to apply technology to patient care. I developed an embryo transfer system with Danforth Biomedical and was awarded a patent, “Methods for endometrial implantation of embryos”. We were early adopters of networking technologies in the early 1990s and developed one of the first fertility support websites, PacificFertilityCenter.com (at that time sfivf.com) in 1993. My wife was responsible for the early work leading to FertilityWire.com, which continues today as an educational resource for patients. Ongoing interests in genetics, fertility preservation, and imaging are leading to new developments that we will apply to clinical care in the near future.

Today I am a husband to a remarkable wife and three wonderful girls. I have many outside interests in skiing, music, bicycling, and aviation. I was pleased to receive a “Best Doctors in America” award and recognition in “America’s Guide to Top Obstetricians and Gynecologists”. Our entire family went to New York for the American Fertility Association’s Kokopelli Ball, where I received the AFA’s Family Building Award.

One of my interests includes teaching young doctors that are contemplating their roles in the field, and I was asked to join the faculty at UCSF where I teach these bright young minds. I am reminded of how unique our profession really is, seeing it again through their eyes. Reproductive Medicine has grown much since that first IVF pregnancy and I am proud to be part of its continuance into the future.

-Philip Chenette, M.D.

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