SRM Spokane, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility practice that opened in Spokane Valley in October 2013, is seeing healthy growth in demand for services from patients throughout the Inland Northwest, says Dr. Brenda S. Houmard, who helped launch the clinic here.
“This area is awesome,” says Houmard, adding that the practice has attracted patients from a surprisingly large geographical area, extending throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho and into Montana.
Gratifying, too, she says, has been the attitude of the patients who come to the practice for consultation and treatment.
“They are very appreciative of what we’re doing,” which has affirmed for her that there was a strong need for more infertility-related services here, Houmard says.
SRM Spokane occupies most of the second floor of the two-story, 28,000-square-foot Indiana Professional Center at 15920 E. Indiana, and employs 11 people, including two doctors, two medical assistants, and three nurses, plus other clinical and office support staff members.
It is one of five clinics statewide—and the only one in Eastern Washington—operated by Seattle Reproductive Medicine, which was founded in 2004 by faculty physicians from the University of Washington. The other clinics are in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Kirkland.
Greater Spokane Incorporated issued a press release in January 2014 about the launch of the SRM Spokane clinic, estimating that it would generate more than $2 million in annual economic impact.
A business site selector from the Seattle area contacted GSI in 2013, inquiring about possible locations in the Spokane area. Gary Mallon, GSI’s industry manager, and Robin Toth, its vice president of business development, met with SRM representatives and provided information about the Spokane market that assisted the practice with its expansion here.
Houmard, who served a postgraduate fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Washington and spent 15 years there as an assistant professor, was recruited to help spearhead the startup of SRM Spokane. The clinic’s other physician, Dr. Thomas E. Fisher, came onboard last August, and Houmard foresees the clinic potentially adding a third doctor within a few years.
SRM Spokane offers fertility diagnostic and treatment services that range from semen analysis and radiographic tests to evaluate the fallopian tubes and uterine cavity, to insemination, in vitro fertilization, third-party reproduction, fertility preservation, and frozen egg program access, among others.
“Infertility evaluations is probably what we do for 90 percent of the new patients who come in,” which then lead to a discussion of treatment options, Houmard says.
SRM Spokane says on its website that all factors are considered when developing a treatment plan: diagnosis findings, success rates, cost, and each patient’s individual situation. Patients can set the pace for their own treatment plan. Some want the fast track to in vitro fertilization, a laboratory procedure in which egg cells are fertilized outside a woman’s body, while others want to exhaust all options before moving to the use of such technology, the website says.
Houmard estimates only about 15 percent of patients end up having in vitro fertilization procedures performed, adding that the majority “don’t need to use in vitro” because of the high success rate of other treatment methods.
Among patients who come in for initial evaluations, probably around one-fourth of infertility problems are due to women not ovulating, which can be addressed with medications, and another one-fourth are due to their fallopian tubes not functioning properly, for which there also are treatment options, she says.
Probably another one-fourth of infertility problems is due to male factors, she says, and the other one-fourth is unexplained. “Usually what we do (in those latter cases) is try some type of treatment, just to improve the odds,” she says.
“Those patients are so pleased” when they discover, in many cases, that they’re they are able to achieve a healthy pregnancy, Houmard says.
Some women end up seeking egg donors when they aren’t able to achieve a healthy pregnancy using their own eggs. That inability may be due to premature ovarian failure, advanced maternal age, or the need to avoid inheritable disease, the SRM Spokane website says.
A program offered through the clinic enables them to undergo in vitro fertilization using eggs donated by either a known or anonymous donor. Technological advances have led to the use of frozen donor eggs with nearly the same success rates as using fresh donor eggs, its website says. Working with the “highly successful” program at Seattle Reproductive Medicine, the clinic here says it can offer patients access to “one of the largest banks of frozen eggs in the country.”
Houmard says egg freezing, also now enabling women to take a proactive step to protect their future fertility, is a fast-emerging segment in that specialized area of medical services.
She completed her undergraduate biology work at Ohio State University and received both a doctorate degree in physiology and her M.D. degree there, plus completed her OB/GYN residency there, before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She fulfilled her fellowship training at the University of Washington under SRM founding partners Drs. Michaels Soules and Nancy Klein, and says she worked with them closely, so transitioning over to employment with that practice went smoothly.
Soules has since retired, and Klein now is SRM’s managing partner, she says.
The transition of relocating to Spokane also has gone well, Houmard says, because the Inland Northwest reminds her a lot of the Midwest where she spent much of her life.
Of her educational background and what led her into a reproductive health focus, she says, “I love reproductive physiology. I just hoped I would love the clinical side of it as much as the science side,” and that has turned out to be the case.
“I think it is the most rewarding (practice) area,” she says.
Many couples come to the clinic to the clinic disheartened and anxious over their inability to conceive, she says, and, “When you can bring a pregnancy to those people, that’s awesome.”
SRM offers a seminar on infertility for prospective clients at its offices on the first Tuesday of each month, with check-in at 5:45 p.m. and the seminar running from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The next seminar is scheduled for Feb. 3.
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