The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services is a part of the First Fertility family of centers. Learn more.

Fertility Matters

Welcome Kelly Lynch, MD

Dr. Kelly Lynch, reproductive endocrinologist, has joined the Center as Lead Physician and Assistant Professor in the Department of Ob/Gyn at UConn School of Medicine. She will be seeing patients in the Center’s Hartford, CT office, moving to the Center’s new greater Springfield, MA area office once opened in the Spring of 2023.

“I am honored to have a role in helping people overcome challenges in building their families,” said Lynch. “I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of such a respected and successful program as the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services.”

Dr. Lynch graduated from Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine and completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Connecticut Health Center and Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology also at UConn. After fellowship, she worked at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, where she served on the faculty of both Tufts and UMass-Chan Medical Schools as Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. At Baystate, she was appointed Medical Director of the IVF and Donor Egg Programs. In that role, she collaborated with other Massachusetts medical directors and third-party payors to develop single embryo transfer guidelines to reduce iatrogenic multiple births. She also was privileged to precept the 4th year elective in reproductive endocrinology and infertility and mentored many Tufts, UMass and visiting medical students.

Dr. Lynch has been a committee member of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology since 2009 and Chair of the Electronic Communication Committee since 2018. Dr. Lynch’s clinical interests include polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, Turner syndrome, and IVF quality and safety.

Genetic Carrier Screening

Recently, Melissa Cole from WFSB visited the Center in Farmington to learn more about genetic screening and why it’s important if you’re looking to conceive.
 
In this story, the father was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease. Through the process of genetic screening, they were able to make sure that their future children would not have CF. “With this process, we could avoid passing on any of the cystic fibrosis complications to our daughter.”
 
According to Dr. Prachi Godiwala, “genetic carrier screening is an essential part of family planning. A carrier is typically healthy, has no outward signs of disease, and may not even know they have it. Genetic screening is recommended for all patients. If we find that both parents have the gene, they can do preimplantation genetic testing to have a child without that disease.”
Watch the full story here: https://www.wfsb.com/video/2022/11/03/growing-your-family/

Welcome Brian Miller, PhD as Chief Executive Officer

Brian Miller, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services

The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services (The Center), one of the leading family building programs in the country, announced Brian Miller, PhD has been named Chief Executive Officer. Miller will succeed Paul Verrastro, who is stepping down from his position on Dec. 23rd after a distinguished 23-year career at The Center.

Started in 1984, The Center for Reproductive Services is Connecticut’s largest fertility program employing over 100 individuals in the state in four locations and is responsible for the births of over 17,000 babies. The Center is an academic affiliate of UCONN School of Medicine.

Miller is a veteran of the fertility industry, with an extensive background in medical practice operations, business development and growth strategies, medical affairs, as well as clinical laboratory and research. “Brian is a long term colleague and friend of the Center with over 20 years’ experience in the fertility field. His talent and skill combined with an intimate understanding of the Center’s culture make him a perfect fit,” said Paul Verrastro, CEO, Emeritus.

Miller joins The Center from TMRW Life Sciences where he was Senior Vice President. Prior to that he was at a large women’s health company, Cooper Surgical Fertility Solutions, where he was Vice President, North America. Other previous positions include Chief Commercial Officer at Recombine, a clinical genetic testing company and Chief Operating Officer of Fertility Centers of New England. Brian began his career at the Hospital of Central Connecticut. He completed his PhD from the University of Connecticut.

“I am incredibly grateful to work at an organization that is so full of hope and inspiration,” remarked Brian Miller. “I look forward to continuing the Center’s tradition of providing the highest quality personalized care surrounded by the latest technologies and treatments in family building and infertility.”

When It’s Time to See a Fertility Specialist

Recently we had the opportunity to talk about family building options with Natasha Lubczenko from WTNH.

“This is something that is a right for everybody,” says Dr. Prachi Godiwala, lead physician at the center. “It’s not just a privilege for a select few and so to be able to help all of those different people achieve their family goals is really inspiring.”

Watch as Dr. Godiwala explains when it’s time to see a fertility specialist, and as a patient shares her success story.

https://www.wtnh.com/ct-style/center-for-advanced-reproductive-services-offers-fertility-treatment-options-to-grow-your-family/

A Word From Our CEO

Friends and Colleagues,

Change is never easy, but almost always good. In September of this year, I began a transition plan that will bring to an end one of my proudest and most rewarding opportunities–Chief Executive Officer of The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services (CARS) an Academic Affiliate of UConn School of Medicine. The change is effective December 23, 2022.

My career in fertility has been both challenging and rewarding. To get up every day and know I was part of making the kind of difference in people’s lives that only comes through the gift of family was fulfilling and humbling. The heart of CARS is the patients. Always has been. Always will be.

The culture of CARS has always attracted and retained outstanding employees whom I have been privileged to lead and serve. I will miss them all, but treasure what we accomplished together. This is a move I have been personally contemplating for the past few years, but COVID and the challenge of filling this role kept pushing my timeline out.

Earlier this year a person who I would describe as the perfect candidate materialized and we jumped on the opportunity to recruit him. Brian Miller, PhD is a long-term colleague and friend of CARS with over 20 years’ experience in the fertility field. His talent and skill combined with an intimate understanding of the CARS culture make him a perfect fit. I am happy to share Brian and I have been working together since September and will continue to do so through the end of the year. CARS will have the support of Brian and I, the MD and Management Teams, and our management partner First Fertility to make certain this is a seamless, successful transition.

Many of you have inquired about my next step. For the short-term (Q1, 2023), I will be taking on a part time, consultative/project-based role with First Fertility, CARS’s management company. Beyond that, I am leaving open at least for now.

My life has been immeasurably enriched by my 23 years at CARS. This is a very positive step for me at this time in my life and most importantly secures the long-term administrative leadership of CARS. I am gratified to have been supported and mentored by so many talented and generous people. And I am especially grateful to have had a part of being able to inspire many, many people with hope and help them fulfill their dreams of building families.

Paul Verrastro, CEO

 

Thank you Dr. Nulsen

Retirement isn’t the end of the road…it’s the beginning of clear skies full of adventure. Please join us in wishing Dr. John Nulsen many years of joy and happiness as after 35 years of dedicated service, Dr. Nulsen will be retiring from The Center at the end of this year.

To anyone who would like to send best wishes to Dr. Nulsen, you can do so by sending an email to: [email protected]

(Shhhh…We are also collecting photos for a very special book for Dr. Nulsen; these can also be sent to the same email address.)

If you are a current patient of Dr. Nulsen, you should have received previous correspondence with this news and how to transition to any of our other Farmington-based physicians. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Practice News

There are several changes that will be occurring at The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services [The Center] over the coming months.

Dr. Nulsen
After 35 years of dedicated service, Dr. John Nulsen will be retiring from The Center. Dr. Nulsen will stop seeing new patients as of October 1, 2022 and continue to care for patients currently in treatment through December 16, 2022. Patients of Dr. Nulsen will have the option of transitioning their care to any of our other Farmington based doctors; Dr. Engmann, Dr. Benadiva, Dr. Schmidt or Dr. Grow. To facilitate a smooth and comfortable transition of care, CARS will be offering Dr. Nulsen’s existing patients a complimentary 30-minute virtual consult with their new provider.

Biographies and videos of all our doctors are on our website. Should you need to speak to someone about choosing your new doctor please call Susan Lyko, Farmington Practice Manager at 860.321.7082, EXT 8008 or Jennifer Christensen, Hartford Practice Manager at 860.525.5253, EXT 8105. You can schedule your virtual appointment with your new provider by calling our front desk at 844.467.3483.

Join Us In Saying Thanks

To anyone who would like to send best wishes to Dr. Nulsen, you can do so by sending an email to: [email protected]uconnfertility.com. We are also collecting photos for a very special book for Dr. Nulsen; these can also be sent to the same email address.

Dr. Engmann
Effective November 1, 2022 Dr. Engmann will be moving his practice from the Hartford office to our Farmington location. Current patients of Dr. Engmann may choose to follow him to Farmington or continue on in the Hartford office under the care of Dr. Prachi Godiwala who will be joining the team as of October 1, 2022.

Once re-located to the Farmington office Dr. Engmann will be working with Dr. Nulsen’s nursing team. Dr. Engmann’s Hartford nursing team will be supporting Dr. Godiwala in Hartford.

Dr. Godiwala
We are excited to announce that Dr. Prachi Godiwala will be joining the CARS team effective October 1, 2022 and will be seeing patients in our Hartford office. She graduated from UMASS School of Medicine in 2015 and completed her Ob/Gyn residency at George Washington University. Dr. Godiwala completed a three-year Reproductive, Endocrinology and Infertility [REI] fellowship at The Center and UConn School of Medicine. During this time, she distinguished herself as a compassionate and skilled provider as well as committed researcher and academic.

For Dr. Engmann patients choosing to continue receiving care in the Hartford office, CARS will be offering a complimentary 30-minute virtual consult with Dr. Godiwala. You can schedule this visit by calling the Hartford office at 860.525.8283.

We are here for you
At The Center we appreciate you choosing us for your fertility care. We are committed to supporting you through these changes within our practice. Thank you for your continued support.

ReproTech statement

For those patients who have embryos in long-term storage at ReproTech, we are pleased to share their reassuring statement in regards to the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling:

“On June 24, 2022, the U. S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned federal protections for abortion which now provides that each individual state will regulate their own abortion laws. Thirteen states have trigger laws that went, or will go, into effect based on the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling that have abortion restrictions. This has created significant concern and confusion about state’s laws impact on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), and we share that concern.

Based on ASRM’s guidance in their Potential Implications for Reproductive Medicine report, ReproTech currently does not expect any impact in the operations at any of our locations. According to the ASRM report, twelve of the thirteen state’s trigger laws that restrict abortion do not appear to include ART in any of their restrictive language. The ASRM document indicates that these states’ trigger laws apply to fertilized embryos in pregnant women, not to embryos in storage that were created with ART. The Utah trigger law is the one exception that has language that could be interpreted to have an impact on ART.

We understand that some of our partners clinics may feel it is in the best interest of their patients to begin working with a ReproTech facility in a more IVF “friendly” state. However, ReproTech’s facilities are strategically located throughout the U.S. to provide the highest level of service to your patients. Working with the ReproTech facility closest to you allows us to provide the most convenient and economical service for your patients and reduce shipping distances.

ReproTech is exceptionally positioned and fortunate to have nationwide locations in 5 states that give us the flexibility to continuing providing all cryostorage and dispositions options to your patients. Should the laws concerning disposition of embryos change in one of the states where ReproTech is located, and if any of your patients’ disposition choices are restricted, they will always have the ability to transfer their embryos to one of ReproTech’s other four nationwide locations for disposition.”

 

Feeding Fertility: Using Nutrition to Support Preconception Health

By Ami Chokshi, Integrative Fertility Coach

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates, 4th century BCE

Our diets have changed dramatically since Hippocrates. There are a multitude of approaches to eating these days including several popular diets, Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, and Vegan. For women who are trying to conceive, it can be overwhelming to understand what to eat for fertility, preconception, and pregnancy.

We know a great deal about the link between nutrition and fertility because of the Nurses’ Health Study, where almost 18,000 women who were trying to conceive were followed for 8 years. They tracked both lifestyle and diet, and this study has become a watershed for understanding just how important it is to eat to benefit fertility. Those that followed a highly plant-based plan, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins, beans, healthy fats, and 1-2 servings of full-fat dairy had a 66% decreased risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27% lower risk from other causes.1

Additional sources confirm that nutritional and lifestyle adjustments support optimal preconception health. These guidelines suggest both men and women will benefit, so a couple trying to conceive can work together to optimize their fertility health.

Lower Pesticide Foods

A preconception and fertility diet looks similar to the one in the Nurses’ Health Study, but there is currently a greater emphasis on eating foods with a low-pesticide profile, typically found in organic foods, due to a January 2018 study in JAMA Internal Medicine.2

The results found that that “in a cohort of 325 women undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology, intake of high–pesticide residue fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower probability of live birth, while low–pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intake was not associated with this outcome.”3

Since buying organic foods can be cost-prohibitive, for produce, aim to purchase organics for those fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a yearly review and guide of the most pesticide-ridden produce, called The Dirty Dozen, as well as the cleanest fruits and vegetables, called The Clean 15. There are pocket guides on EWG’s website (https://ewg.org) as well as an app for quick access when grocery shopping.

While each year varies, the Clean 15 produce that is safe to be purchased conventionally often includes avocado, non-GMO sweet corn, pineapple, sweet frozen peas, onions, papayas, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, mangoes, mushrooms, and honeydew melon.

On the other hand, the Dirty Dozen is the most contaminated conventional produce and are often those with thin, penetrable skins, like strawberries, spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, nectarines, grapes, apples, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, and bell and hot peppers. It’s best to buy organics while shopping from this list.

What is A Fertility Diet?

The best options for a fertility diet are one that includes plenty of vegetables as well as fruits, whole grains, beans, healthy fats, and quality sources of proteins.

While fruit has been demonized recently with current keto craze, fruits offer powerful vitamins and antioxidants that help fight off oxidative stress caused by poor nutrition, emotional stress, and environmental factors. They are best eaten raw and ripe because they are heat sensitive and because the whole fruit contains blood sugar-stabilizing fiber. Examples include wild blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, prunes, and pomegranates. They can be eaten as a whole fruit or added to a smoothie, which preserves the beneficial fiber when blended (not juiced).

Vegetables, like leafy greens and crucifers, offer much needed minerals and fiber to support healthy blood sugar levels and optimal digestion. 2-3 servings or covering ½ of your plate with vegetables encourages satiety, crowds out junk food, fuels your cells with nutrients, and provides sustained energy throughout the day. It also keeps your mood stable, which is especially helpful when patients are experiencing the stress of several months of trying to conceive. Prebiotic fibers from vegetables help support digestive health and help move bowels and toxins that go with it.

Healthy fats support egg, sperm, and embryo health, provide energy, and protect organs. Some examples of food-based fats to eat include wild-caught salmon (farm-raised salmon should be avoided due to contaminants), nuts (walnuts, pecans, macadamias, almonds), seeds (pumpkin, chia, hemp, sunflower), avocadoes, olives, and coconut. Healthy fats are best eaten as a whole food. Healthy oils like avocado, coconut, olive, and grapeseed, are best when used in smaller amounts, i.e. for cooking, since oils are a processed food. Trans fats, which are often found in donuts, pastries, and French fries, should be avoided entirely.

Organic proteins should be about ¼ of a meal. These include meat, eggs, tofu, tempeh, and beans. Organic is again ideal to avoid the antibiotics and pesticides, that contribute to a greater toxic body burden. Specifically, these include grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild-caught salmon, turkey, and smaller, less contaminated fish. Since according to Michael Pollan, “you are what you eat eats,” it’s important to look at what the animal that we are eating is also consuming and source accordingly.

Gluten free whole grains like brown and black rice, quinoa (this is actually a protein-rich seed but often treated as a grain), buckwheat, amaranth, millet, and oatmeal are beneficial staples to a fertility diet. It’s the refined grains, like breads and pasta, that wreak havoc on blood sugar, add to bodily stress, and should be limited.

The focus on gluten free grains relates to how our wheat is produced in the US. The majority of wheat is mostly ridden with pesticides and is genetically-modified to be resistant to glyphosate, which is a carcinogenic herbicide found in Roundup.

How to combine these foods?

When combined appropriately, these foods support optimal blood sugar and prenatal nutrient needs. The aim here is to integrate fiber in the form of vegetables and protein into the three main meals. Typically, ½ of the plate is covered with mostly vegetables and some fruit, ¼ is a protein, and the remaining ¼ would be a healthy fat or a whole grain.

Patients often question how to integrate more vegetables into their meals; here are some examples. Some of these ingredients can be prepped ahead of time to be easily and quickly assembled later.

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with 2 servings of your favorite veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale, etc.…); Adding 2 handfuls of spinach to a smoothie
  • Lunch: Make ahead soup with lots of veggies topped with diced avocado, A large green salad topped with wild-caught salmon
  • Dinner: Stir fry of veggies and chicken over steamed cauliflower rice, Dinner bowl with quinoa, sauteed veggies, a grass-fed steak, and a savory chimichurri sauce
  • Snacks: Carrots and Hummus; Celery slices with Almond Butter

Given that 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility, many are often seeking ways to better manage the ongoing stressors related to trying to conceive. Eating to support conception can not only be delicious and nutritious, it can support hormonal and digestive health, blood sugar regulation, a healthy inflammatory response, as well as level energy and better mood.

 

References:

  1. Souter I, Chiu YH, Batsis M, Afeiche MC, Williams PL, Hauser R, Chavarro JE; EARTH Study Team. The association of protein intake (amount and type) with ovarian antral follicle counts among infertile women: results from the EARTH prospective study cohort. BJOG. 2017 Sep;124(10):1547-1555. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14630. Epub 2017 Apr 10. PMID: 28278351; PMCID: PMC5568942.
  2. Baudry J, Assmann KE, Touvier M, et al. Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk: Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(12):1597–1606. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357
  3. Chiu Y, Williams PL, Gillman MW, et al. Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake From Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(1):17–26. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5038

 

Coverage at Work Program

CT is one of only 10 states that has mandated fertility coverage. However, there are many gaps and limitations. In fact, most employers do not realize there is a gap in their benefits plan until it’s brought to their attention. That’s why we are proud to work with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association to share information about their Coverage at Work program.
 
Coverage at Work is a program designed to help you gain new or expanded benefits to help cover the cost of treatment through your employer-provided benefits.
 
The Coverage at Work resource hub includes an easy-to-follow toolkit, tips for making a plan and asking for coverage, and additional resources to present your employer. Plus, you’ll get access to one-on-one coaching with the RESOLVE team for any questions you or your employer have along the way.
 
Hundreds of thousands of employees have already gained new or expanded benefits for family building – you and your coworkers could join them. But it starts with making the ask.
 
Learn more and download the Coverage at Work Employee toolkit at this link:
 
https://resolve.org/learn/financial-resources-for-family-building/insurance-coverage/getting-insurance-coverage-at-work/
 

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