Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From Midwest to Mideast, Dr. Fakih gives hope to infertile couples

Arab American News

DEARBORN — To call Dr. Hassan Michael Fakih one of the most renowned doctors in Michigan in the field of Reproductive Medicine might be an understatement, considering Dr. Fakih doesn’t only practice in the state. From a clinic out of state as well as practices in the Middle East, Dr. Fakih is very much in demand and it all started here in Michigan. Since 1998, the establishment of IVF Michigan, which includes locations in Dearborn, Saginaw, Flint, Ann Arbor, Brighton and Rochester, has given new hope to residents who are struggling with infertility.

Dr. Fakih, born in West Africa, knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was only 10 years old. For his career in medicine, he first studied at the American University of Beirut. In 1982, he came to the United States, attending Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee. It was there where he developed some skills that would benefit him in the long run, when he was able to learn from some of the best reproductive technologists and the best reproductive surgeons in the country.

Dr. Fakih followed his time in Nashville by completing two fellowships in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, one at Yale University, and the other at the Medical Center of South Carolina. In 1987, Fakih was receiving offers from different establishments who were eager to upstart an IVF program, and they all viewed Dr. Fakih as the best candidate. In the end, he decided to collaborate with Saginaw General Hospital in Michigan. Today, he still serves as the chairman of the Department of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the hospital as well as the Program Director of the In Vitro Fertilization.

Dr. Fakih’s innovative technique, using a woman’s follicular fluid to treat sperm and serve as a transfer medium has revolutionized the invetro procedure completely, nearly doubling the chances of success rates. Fakih quickly became in demand, and by the 1990’s, in a collaborative effort with four other partners he was able to establish several practices outside of the Saginaw Hospital.

The first IVF Michigan was established in Oakland County and today, with seven locations, including one office in Toledo, the doctors are required to multi-task to meet the demands of their growing patient list. Dr. Fakih says the doctors are not required to be at the offices at all times because their staff and technicians are well-trained and taught first hand by the doctors themselves.

“The doctor being there is not the important thing, it’s the way they do the procedures, which are taught to all the doctors, technicians and the principals that are dictated by that specific doctor. In the end every patient gets the same treatment whether the doctor is there or not,” Dr. Fakih stated.

Dr. Fakih can usually be found at the Saginaw, Rochester and Dearborn offices. The Dearborn clinic mostly serves the Arab American community, and according to Dr. Fakih, they have had many couples come through their doors hoping for a miracle. Plenty of times, their wishes were answered.

Fakih says the chances of having a successful operation really comes down to age. A woman under the age of 38 has a 63 percent chance of being fertilized, while women between the ages of 38-40 have a lower chance, at about 45 percent. Dr. Fakih says the chances for a woman over the age of 40 drastically decrease, with chances going down to just 25 percent. But more importantly, before a woman is approved for a procedure, the doctors have to confirm she is healthy enough to carry a pregnancy by checking for heart disease and breast cancer.

“Most of the patients I get have tried previous clinics and have failed. In the back of their mind they think this is the last resort clinic and they feel it has a magical touch. Sometimes when it fails, it’s not acceptable for them. That’s why we try our best to explain to them the realities by emphasizing that we will try our best to help them achieve their dreams, but it’s not a guarantee,” Dr. Fakih stated.

Dr. Fakih expanded his practices outside of IVF Michigan in the late 90’s as well. He now also operates practices in the United Emirates, with locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and in Lebanon, with a practice located in Beirut. This means he is required to split his time between those offices and the ones in the United States. Fakih says he sees similarities between patients in Beirut and in Dearborn.

“The Dearborn patients are not very different than the patients in Lebanon. We see more needy people at the Dearborn office and in Lebanon because of recent economical downturns which has caused a lot of stress,” Dr. Fakih stated. “But it’s really interesting, because the patients in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a very similar lifestyle to the ones in Rochester or Saginaw.”

Dr. Fakih works full 12 hour days, going back and forth between clinics. He says he is able to relax only when traveling back and forth from the U.S. to the Middle East.

“I love traveling on airplanes because it is the only time I am able to relax and get some sleep,” Dr. Fakih stated.

Outside of being a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, Dr. Fakih was also a professor at Michigan State University. He has published over 20 journal articles and has 25 abstracts presented at national meetings. He has seven children, including a wife who is also an infertility doctor, living in Dubai.

As for whether he has any plans of slowing down, Dr. Fakih says that is not on his radar anytime soon. He believes changing people’s lives makes all endless hours of hard work worth it. Additionally, he says the field continues to progress drastically, which motivates him even more.

“The field has really progressed a lot. We have come a long way from the 80’s and 90’s and the early years of the 2000’s. Our facilities have the most up-to-date technologies and equipment that are available. We are always in the forefront and we actively improve our own performance every year and aim at perfecting the procedure,” Dr. Fakih stated.