As children’s laughter fills the air on the shores of Virginia Beach, Dr. Laurel Stadtmauer smiles as she recognizes families whose journeys into parenthood began at the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine.
Stadtmauer, MD and PhD, is director of EVMS Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine and also a professor in obstetrics and gynecology at EVMS. The renowned Jones Institute is a clinical practice of the EVMS Medical Group. One of its most celebrated attributes is that it is the birthplace of the first In-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic in America. Since its inception in 1978, the clinic has marked the births of approximately 5,000 IVF babies. Jones Institute has three locations: one in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Newport News.
Stadtmauer has been with Jones Institute since 2002. Her clinical interests include IVF, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Tubal Ligation Reversal and fibroids.
As a child, she saw herself as a “nerd” because of her “STEM” interests, which she embraced and cultivated into a career that she refers to as “the perfect blend of science, research and medicine.” She says that working in her specialty brings “the human piece” into the equation. “My passion is to deliver healthy babies to people who had little hope,” says Stadtmauer.
“I really enjoy helping people who have been diagnosed with cancer have children,” says Stadtmauer. “Through the process of Fertility Preservation, we educate reproductive-aged men and women facing cancer treatment on the risks of infertility and their options for treatment.” Some treatment options include IVF and embryo freezing, ovarian tissue freezing, donor egg treatment and sperm freezing. She treats both male and female patients.
Says Stadtmauer, “For those who want children, we give them hope and something to look forward to. We help them to see life beyond their cancer. I tell them, ‘Go and take care of that (cancer) and this will be here waiting for you.’” Women can freeze their eggs, undergo treatments like chemotherapy and radiation and return to these eggs that have not been exposed to or affected by these harsh treatments. Patients may also opt to have their ovarian tissue removed and frozen. This process implants the tissue back into the patient when she is cancer-free, with the hope of producing viable eggs.
These options and others help patients focus on living. She says that reduced stress and hope helps provide a better outcome for patients.
Many working women and some with different priorities are also waiting until they are older to have children. Stadtmauer says that while the average age of her patients is 37 years old, some wait until it’s too late and their delay has resulted in a low egg quality. “Even with the advancements, there is still only so much we can do,” she says. “We have to balance giving them hope with being realistic.”
Stadtmauer has successfully helped bring about the pregnancy of a 46-year-old woman using her own egg and a 58-year-old using a donor egg. She further shares that with women who have opted to freeze their eggs, fewer than 20 percent continue the process. Reasons for not returning include a range of possibilities such as patients getting pregnant on their own or changing their minds.
As a wife and a mother, she appreciates the many options now available to support women today as they consider careers and family — options that weren’t available as she was progressing through the ranks, trying to balance the two. With the demands and workload required to progress, she says, “You really have to love what you do.”
With more than 30 years as a doctor, Stadtmauer is a respected leader, noted author and sought-out contributor in the research and medical community. Another one of her specialties is robotic surgery. She shares that this technology first started with the military, allowing them to operate from a remote location on service members in combat. For her, this advancement allows her to sit at a console, using a robotic arm instead of standing over the patient using traditional methods. This technology proves to be minimally invasive and provides much faster recovery time.
While the days are long, the success of Jones Institute is a testament to the dedicated team and exceptional care of its patients. “We have a great group of physicians, fellows and residents. And, we know our patients very well.” She says that what makes things flow is they have “values meetings” to stay abreast of what’s happening within the clinic and with their patients. She also spends a lot of time teaching future leaders in the field. In her professor role, she presents and participates in formal lectures, case study discussions and other lessons to develop highly competent and compassionate medical professionals.
In her personal life, she is very competitive and enjoys tennis. As someone who is very athletic, she enjoys working out and going to the gym. She also enjoys spending time with her family even though her children are grown and out of the house. Says Stadtmauer, “I can’t walk out on the beach without seeing a child I know.” Through this, she sees her definition of success in action, “My success is the success of my patients.”
TO THE POINT:
EVMS, Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine
Address: McCale Professional Park, 729 Thimble Shoals Blvd., St. 5-E, Newport News, VA 23606