First Person Singular: Preston Sacks, 51, Bethesda, reproductive endocrinologist


Preston Sacks, 51, of Bethesda is a reproductive endocrinologist. (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 20, 2012

By training, I’m an obstetrician/gynecologist. But in residency, I really took a liking to the infertility aspect of it. Infertility work, number one, is intellectually challenging. It’s a field which is constantly evolving with new technology. And there’s just something special about being able to help someone through a difficult time and, hopefully, allow them to have a family. When you think about it, when you depart the earth, you don’t leave behind a whole lot, but you do leave behind, hopefully, a family and a legacy. A week doesn’t go by that I’m not out on the street and see a former patient who comes up and says hi, or they’ll tell me about their kids and show me pictures. It’s very rewarding. I get a nice window into people’s lives, and I get to become a part of their lives.

I have two girls, a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old. I treat my patients the same way I treat my daughters. I adore my patients. I can relate very well to them: On average, my patients are older; on average, my patients have been in the workforce. I’m in the age group that’s a little older, I’m in the workforce, and also I raise a family, so I understand the constraints they have and how difficult it is to balance both medical treatment and family life and then try to keep a full-time job. I think the hardest thing about fertility treatment is that it goes against what we usually know in America: If you work harder, you do better. The problem with fertility treatment is that the factors such as egg quality and sperm function are out of our control. As a patient you do everything you’re asked for and you do it well, but you can’t control the most important factor, and that’s very frustrating.


Preston Sacks says: “A week doesn’t go by that I’m not out on the street and see a former patient who comes up and says hi, or they’ll tell me about their kids and show me pictures. It’s very rewarding.” (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

A single woman might come in and say, “Is there any way you can tell me about my fertility or my future fertility?” You can give them insight, but there’s no way to know whether a person will get pregnant until they try.

I was lecturing last year at an oncology office, and I looked around the office, and I thought to myself, It’s not much different from what we do. In that you never want to get cancer, but if you get it, you’re so glad there’s treatment for you. The doctors spend an inordinate amount of time and bond with the people they’re treating, because it’s so involved. And then you’re glad down the road that you’re doing well, but you always reflect back on that time when you were being treated. I think fertility patients would say the same thing — that even long after they have the baby, they still think about how intense emotionally the time was of going through fertility treatment and what it meant to them.

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