Take 5: Fertility expert Pasquale Patrizio

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Take 5 offers a brief introduction to Yale faculty members in a Q&A format. The featured faculty member selects 5 out of 10 questions to answer. Any opinions shared are not necessarily those of YaleNews.

Yale fertility expert Dr. Pasquale Patrizio is professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and director of the Fertility Preservation Program at Yale School of Medicine. The goal of his latest research is to make in vitro fertilization (IVF) accessible to more patients. He and his research colleagues are also interested in finding ways to reduce multiple births associated with IVF. IVF can cost upwards of $10,000 for a full cycle. Because few Americans have sufficient insurance coverage for fertility treatments, some patients feel financially compelled to maximize their pregnancy chances by implanting multiple embryos, despite the health risks and long-term costs associated with multiple gestations and births. Patrizio recently accepted the 2014 RESOLVE Hope Award for Advocacy for his research on reducing multiple births associated with IVF. He and co-winner and colleague Josephine Johnston of the Hastings Center attended the awards ceremony and gala in November, which included speakers such as Elizabeth Carr, the first IVF baby born in the United States.

What scholarly/research project are you working on now?

I am currently working on two projects. The first is to empower women globally by improving sexual health education and access to fertility care, particularly in resource-constraint settings, through an organization called Friends of Low-Cost IVF (www.FLCIVF.com) of which I am a co-founder. The second project is to continue bringing innovations in the field of fertility preservation for cancer patients. I am currently collaborating on ovarian in vitro perfusion and folliculogenesis with the Swedish team that reported the first births after uterine transplants and I have also been elected president of the international Society for Fertility Preservation.

What is your most treasured classroom memory – either as a student or of a teacher?

I still remember the laboratory demonstration during my 5th year as a medical student in Napoli, Italy, when a cluster of cancer cell growth was made to “disappear/regress” by changing the chemical composition of the surrounding cellular environment. This was an early proof that we are not only products of our genes but also deeply influenced by our environmental exposure and interactions.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy playing tennis. I also love to cook, especially making homemade pizza in my backyard wood-fired oven. It is now an established tradition that each summer the fellows gather in my backyard to learn the art of making real pizza. I give grades and tips for improving, and it is fun!  

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do — either professionally or personally — that you haven’t yet?

This question always elicits the same answer: I would have loved to experience stage acting. Writing and directing short documentaries is also of great intrigue to me. I would love to be able to create short scientific movies, which would simplify the concepts of complex medical technologies.

What are you reading for pleasure?

I just finished two books, one in Italian language “La Rabbia e L’Orgoglio” (“The Anger and the Pride”) by the now deceased Italian journalist and feminist writer Oriana Fallaci. Written in the aftermath of 9/11 (she was living in self-exile in Manhattan at the time), this book is an analysis of the “new war” and a prediction of the ongoing turmoils present in the world today. The second book, “History Begins at Sumer” by Samuel Kramer, explains the advanced civilization of the ancient Sumer and how “discoveries” in the various sectors of one’s daily life (economics, government, politics, language, law, philosophy, ethics, etc.) have all been already represented many years ago in the Sumerian Sanskrit literary texts.

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