Interview with Reproductive Endocrinologist Dr. Shaun Williams
As part of our introducing our new board-certified reproductive endocrinologist to our practice, I was lucky enough to interview Dr. Shaun Williams. It's a pleasure to work with physicans like I do at RMACT, who are so open to sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
Get to know Dr. Williams by hearing what he has to say about reproductive medicine, talking to patients and himself.
1. Lisa Rosenthal-What first attracted you to reproductive medicine?
Dr. Shaun Williams-During my training as an obstetrician, I enjoyed delivering babies so much that I did not think that doing anything else could possibly be as rewarding. Then, as I neared the end of my training, I was at a conference and attended a lecture about the possibilities of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and the scientific advances that were occurring within the embryology laboratory. The cutting edge research that was directly applicable to patients fascinated me and that awoke a desire to be part of helping couples get to the point where delivery can happen, through science and some neat technologies. Delivering babies, which I don’t do anymore, would still be rewarding—but helping couples get to that point, I have found, is as rewarding as I hoped and thought it would be.
2. LR-Has practicing reproductive medicine been what you expected? What has surprised you?
SW-It is as rewarding as I had hoped. It is a roller coaster at times. When you work every day at the cutting edge of what we know as physicians and scientists, it becomes humbling to realize just how much we don’t know about the entire pregnancy process. And I have found that there are some situations where you try everything but a problem still remains insurmountable. That is frustrating as a physician and challenging as well.
3.LR- Have you been surprised by any changes in the field since you have been practicing? What are you most surprised by? Most impressed by?
SW-Despite knowing the statistics about how prevalent infertility is, I am still surprised by the number of couples who have difficulties conceiving. It is often not talked about, but once I mention what I do for a living, it seems that everyone has a story about his or her struggles or a family member’s difficulties. It is a very common problem that not many people talk about, for many reasons. Since the scientific side of what we do is rather impressive, it is often easy to understand the science and make sense of new innovations coming out of some of the laboratory procedures we do.
It’s the day-to-day challenges that I see couples facing with a determination to reach a goal that really still impress me. We break down the family building process into the biologic steps necessary to allow a sperm and an egg to interact normally. To get through these very unromantic explanations of bringing children into the world without losing the focus of what we are all striving for is impressive to see in women and couples of all configurations.
4.LR- What would you like your patients to know about you as a person? Could you share what you like to do in your spare time? What your hobbies are? If you have a family?
SW-I look at what I do as my role in life. Helping couples have children is my contribution to this shared life we all lead. It doesn’t end when I am not seeing anyone in the office. I am here to help to help women and couples in anyway I can, and the nurses and coordinators that I work with know that there is no question or issue that I don’t have time to help address. Right now, my spare time is spent almost entirely with my kids and my own family. I am my kid’s biggest fan, in everything they do. I just enjoy watching them experience everything that makes them into who they are. Knowing that my professional life is allowing others to experience all that I do with my kids is incredibly motivating.
5. LR-What kind of things do you do to relax?
SW-I am a big soccer fan. I like to play as well, and the physical exertion of that sport helps ease all the mental tension that builds up while in the office. I play in an adult soccer league almost every weekend in the fall and spring—I’ve found the Over-40 league, can be as competitive as any high school game, for better or for worse!
6. LR-If you were given a day off, unexpectedly, what would you do?
SW-Take a train into New York City and find something I haven’t seen before. Not just sights or attractions, but to see what life is like for others in different environments. I’m fortunate to live so close, and often I take the family into the city looking for different neighborhoods where people eat, relax, work, and live their lives. My wife and I have always enjoyed traveling and experiencing the places we have visited as more than just tourists.
7. LR-What's the one thing you wish every patient of yours knew before they walked into the door? What do you expect them to know when they leave a consultation with you?
SW-There is usually not one simple thing that can be corrected to help most couples. Although sometimes, it is just a simple adjustment of timing or a simple problem to correct. And there usually isn’t anything that our modern world has contributed to a couple’s problems—while lifestyle can affect a couple’s fertility, most couples already know what can be done to maximize the impact of things that are within individual control—the same things such as a healthy diet, exercise, and avoiding smoking or excessive use of any drug like alcohol or caffeine, that we are all taught since childhood applies to fertility. Sometimes a problem is beyond anyone’s control, and trying to accept that is sometimes difficult.
What we do for couples, and what works the best has its foundation in science and physiology. Understanding to some degree the purpose of the various tests and treatments, and the goals of those treatments are what I want any patient to have a better understanding of at the end of a consultation. When problems are beyond our control, having and understanding a plan returns some level of control to the patient.
8. LR- Is there something that you have had a hard time expressing that you could try to articulate now? Perhaps having to do with understanding the patient experience. What would you like to tell a patient who has had bad news? Are you comfortable with talking to a patient who is upset? How do you feel when you deliver bad news? What would you tell a patient who's disappointed about keeping perspective and looking at the next step? What support services would you recommend?
SW-When I first came out of training and began caring for patients, I found it very difficult to not be successful every time a treatment was started. I have come to understand that the treatment for infertility is a process that is played out over many months with many disappointments along the way.
I’ve realized that I still personally invest a significant amount of myself into each patient and each treatment cycle, now, though, I have seen the benefits of persistence and had the experience to know that the end goal has to be kept in sight. The peaks and the valleys will always be there, and it is very hard to sometimes accept that as part of the journey towards a goal. I hope patients will know that I feel those peaks and valleys as well, including the frustration with the limitations of what we can do. Sometimes we are not successful, but every patient I help care for should feel that, despite that lack of success, the best opportunity to achieve her goals was provided, as well as the support along the way.
I am truly fortunate to now be working with a team at RMACT that has the tremendous amount of experience needed to help patients continue to make it towards the goal of a family.
9. LR-How do you feel about joining a practice that offers the many different things that RMACT offers? Do you have suggestions about new things that we could be doing to support our patients and our RMACT team?
SW-It is invigorating to have experienced the amount of work and support and teamwork that goes on behind the scenes at RMACT that is all dedicated to getting things absolutely perfect for women, men and couples from the moment that person steps through the door. I am so excited for all my patients to have not only my best efforts, but the efforts of the nurses, patient care coordinators, and medical assistants all put forth for each individual patient. From experience, I see a huge professional difference among various clinics and the support that patients receive. And this does translate into women getting pregnant more easily and more quickly.
I have known the other physicians at RMACT for many years, and I am looking forward to being part of al group of dedicated individuals with various experiences as well as common goals. Some patients like to have one person to rely upon for all information and recommendations, here at RMACT, you get to have the combined knowledge of five Board Certified Reproductive Endocrinologists to contribute to every patient’s care.That is an incredible resource for any patient .
Dr. Williams answered a lot of questions here. If you have a question that I didn't ask him, please press comment. The question will come to me personally. If you would prefer me not to post it, tell me and I will keep it private. Look for answers to your questions for Dr. Williams or any of our doctors next week.