Brown Fertility, which opened its 10th clinic last year in Winter Garden, is in the business of helping couples become parents.
As a fertility doctor, Samuel E. Brown sees an entire range of emotions in his patients.
“Every day is different in our world, as we find ourselves on this roller coaster called life, filled with hopes and dreams and, sometimes, disappointment,” he said.
But couples go to Brown Fertility with an intense desire to become parents, willing to do whatever it takes to create a family.
There are times, too, when even a fierce hurricane won’t stop a couple and their doctor.
“One wild story that we recall took place during Hurricane Matthew,” Brown said. “We stayed open and actually had patients from other practices call us to do their retrieval here because their clinics had cancelled their cycle after they had started the cycle with medication. We did five IVFs in those two days while the hurricane was passing.
“Key staff and I stayed at the hotel next door to the clinic and came by multiple times — including the middle of the night — to make sure everything was OK,” he said. “I was in constant contact with the five patients, and they literally drove in the middle of the hurricane storm to make it to the clinic.
“While everyone was sheltering in place away from the storm’s fury, our office remained open and our extremely dedicated embryologist in Jacksonville stayed overnight to proceed with making babies since we were right in the middle of several IVF cycles and everything in our field is time sensitive. The best part? All five patients got pregnant that month.”
Brown has been treating patients in the Central Florida area since 2006. The Orlando practice has welcomed more than 20,000 local patients through its doors. This includes previous employees who had treatments and are now parents, as well as a current employee who froze her eggs with the Orlando office three years ago.
In early, 2020, the Winter Garden location became the 10th site for Brown Fertility and includes the most state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology for those undergoing in-vitro fertilization.
Brown was a scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University when he discovered the field of infertility and women’s health care appealed to him.
“I really liked the positivity of this area of medicine and wanted to make a difference in families’ lives,” Brown said. “To this day, I never looked back.”
This work is important to Brown, who said helping create families gives him incredible satisfaction.
“Every day I work hard to upkeep our Christian-based mission to do our very best to make patients and their families’ dreams come true,” he said. “I am motivated daily by our success in the creation of family success, which I cherish as my contribution to the community.”
Infertility is usually diagnosed if a patient under the age of 35 doesn’t conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse or a patient 35 years old or older doesn’t conceive after six months. Patients concerned about their fertility or with obvious medical problems affecting their ability to conceive should begin an infertility workup immediately.
To initiate an infertility workup, patients begin with a new patient consultation to discuss their specific circumstances. A comprehensive medical history is obtained from both partners to identify any potential causes of infertility. Both males and females under physical examinations and analysis.
“It’s important to remember that one in seven couples experience difficulty getting pregnant,” said Cris Duschek, director of public relations at Paradise Advertising & Marketing, which manages the Brown Fertility account. “While it’s easy for patients to lose hope, 85 to 90% of infertility cases are treated with conventional medical therapies such as medication or surgery.”
MAKING A DONATION
One of the largest areas for growth for Brown has been that of frozen embryo donation cycles. The clinic has built one of the biggest embryo banks available in the United States, Duschek said.
Brown has one of the largest and most diversified donated embryo banks in the country, as well as the ability to freeze and store embryos on site. Brown currently holds thousands of embryos and has a portfolio of donated embryo families that patients can choose from, she said.
Brown Fertility has more than 60 egg donors to choose from, as well. A minimally invasive procedure is used to retrieve the eggs from the donor’s ovaries, and then these eggs are fertilized with the recipient partner’s sperm (or donor sperm) in-vitro (in the laboratory), by insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. If fertilization is done in the lab, the embryos are then transferred to the recipient.
“We are confident that the recipe of our success is reflected in our pregnancy success rates — among the highest in the nation — our highly affordable treatment costs and the emphasis we place on individual care for each one of our patients,” Duschek said. “Our physicians and care givers put patients first, above all else, and we take great pride in not being a baby factory.”
BABY OF THE MONTH
Each spring, the clinic posts a “casting call” for children of all ages born from treatment at Brown Fertility. The photo shoots begin in June to prepare for the following year’s calendar.
“It’s a lengthy process, but it has become our ‘staple,’ and OB-GYN, urology and family practice offices really look forward to receiving them every year,” Duschek said.
INTRODUCING DR. SAMUEL E. BROWN
Dr. Samuel E. Brown is the medical director and founder of Brown Fertility, headquartered in Jacksonville.
He completed his reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellowship at Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine under IVF pioneers Drs. Georgeanna and Howard Jones, Jr. He is dually board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as reproductive endocrinology and infertility, providing patients more than 20 years of training and experience.
Brown has been directly involved in the management of more than 10,000 in-vitro fertilization cycles. He was the first surgeon in Florida to pioneer minimally invasive robotic gynecological surgery for treatment of infertility.
Brown is a recipient of the Florida Medical Association’s Distinguished Physician Award. He has also been named one of “America’s Top Obstetrician Gynecologists” three years in a row by the Consumers’ Research Council of America and has been inducted into Strathmore’s Who’s Who for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Physicians. Brown was selected by his peers for the award “Best Doctors in America” in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
INTRODUCING DR. RAFAEL A. CABRERA
Board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Dr. Rafael A. Cabrera offers more than 20 years of experience as an infertility specialist.
He completed his fellowship at Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine.
Cabrera, who is fluent in Spanish, is a native of Puerto Rico and received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Puerto Rico. He completed his internship at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was a practicing OB/GYN before pursuing subspecialty fellowship training in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Cabrera’s expertise is seproductive Surgery and high-quality IVF for women with decreased ovarian reserve.
Prior to joining Brown Fertility, Cabrera practiced reproductive medicine in South Florida and was recognized as a “Best Doctor” by US News & World Report in 2012 and 2013.
A MOTHER'S STORY: NATALIE ROSE ORTIZ, ORLANDO
“My journey of infertility was not an easy one; however, it was proven that it was not an impossible one,” Ortiz said. “Lots of laughter, prayers, hope and tears were shed in this process to only end with the best gift ever — my little piece of heaven in my arms.
Ortiz was a newlywed in 2006 and was excited to become a mother, but a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome seemed to crush those dreams. One doctor told her she had less than a 3% chance of conceiving.
“I remember I cried the entire way home; I felt so hopeless and alone, like I was not worth anything,” Ortiz said. “I couldn’t even do what women are basically called to do. I could not reproduce. I immediately called my husband, and I told him my experience, and he heard the total devastation in my voice. He told me: ‘Never lose faith. Faith and hope (are) all we have at this moment.’”
After much research, Ortiz said, she discovered Brown Fertility. She attended a seminar, met Drs. Samuel Brown and Rafael Cabrera, and felt this was the right path.
“(Dr. Cabrera) had so much patience and so much compassion towards me I immediately told my husband I wanted to continue this journey with Dr. Cabrera and see where it took me,” she said. “Actually, Dr. Cabrera saved my life. In the mist of his testing and reviewing all my records, he discovered I had adult congenital hyperplasia. “
She got her healthy stabilized and returned to Dr. Cabrera in 2018, asking him to keep her from giving up.
“I had so much faith and trust in Dr. Cabrera,” Ortiz said. “He was like a father figure to me. When he spoke, I listened, when he gave instructions or lectures, I accepted every word no matter how deep, happy or sad it may have been — because I knew he spoke to me with such compassion and from his heart.”
She became pregnant with her first artificial insemination in 2019, but it was an ectopic pregnancy and had to be terminated, she said. That summer, after an unsuccessful artificial insemination, she and her husband began in-vitro fertilization via frozen embryo transfer. Ortiz became pregnant with twins, but both died before reaching full term.
Determined to become a mother, Ortiz began a second round of frozen embryo transfer in May 2020.
“My miracle was born Jan. 26, 2021, at 38 weeks and 4 days,” she said. “My heart is and will forever more be so grateful to Dr. Cabrera and his staff for allowing and helping my dream of becoming a mother come true.”
A MOTHER'S STORY: NOVLENE HILAIRE WILLIAMS-MILLS, WINTER GARDEN
Olympic medalist Novlene Hilaire Williams-Mills, of Winter Garden, went to Brown Fertility after she and her husband had tried unsuccessfully for a year to get pregnant. The Jamaica native and University of Florida graduate had won multiple world championships and Olympic medals, including track competition while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
In 2018, Williams-Mills started her IVF journey in her late 30s, knowing she was “racing against the clock.” Her treatment, including removing fibroids, proved successful in 2019, and she gave birth to twin boys last year.
The boys just turned 1.
“Everyone’s journey is different,” she said. ‘But it doesn’t mean that it’s not equally hard.”
Williams-Mills said she is “lucky and blessed to have my kids” as a breast cancer survivor, especially since others in similar situations aren’t so lucky. A former motivational speaker, she plans to return to her “purpose” of speaking out on the importance of education and planning in starting a family and inspiring others to keep on going.
“If she can do it, I can do it,” she said she wants others to think.
Her initial reaction to finding out she was having twins during the ultrasound: “I thought at first they must’ve read something wrong. I asked them ‘Are you sure there were two heartbeats?’ Then when I realized it was true, I was thinking about buying two of everything. There was some time that we had to wait to make sure both twins would remain viable, but needless to say we were excited.’
COVID-19 VACCINE AND FERTILITY
Dr Samuel E. Brown responded to patients asking whether to get the vaccine or not.
• Can those who are pregnant receive the COVID-19 vaccine? When patients ask us the same question about any other vaccine, we advise them to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In this case, as well, leading experts say the vaccine should not be withheld from women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
• How about those who are nursing? Can the virus be transmitted to your toddler or infant through the vaccine? We recommend that mothers consult their health providers for advice, but in our opinion, nursing is still recommended for lactating women even if they have received the vaccine. We have no evidence to suggest that the vaccine transmits the virus to the toddler or infant through nursing.
• Does the COVID-19 vaccine affect fertility? We have no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccine impacts fertility in any negative way.
• Is there an increased miscarriage rate and/or risk? No, there is no evidence to show an increased rate of miscarriage and or risk in pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19, and same for the COVID vaccine.
(All photos courtesy of Brown Fertility)