A physician who treats patients with infertility is known professionally as a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Training in Reproductive Endocrinology requires four years of college followed by four years of medical school. The physician must then complete a four-year residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN), during which the physician receives broad training in general Obstetrics and Gynecology. The final course of training is a two or three-year Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology. Fellowship training focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of infertility and related disorders. This training includes experience in microsurgery, laparoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery, in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer, sonography, and ovulation induction. In addition, the physician spends a significant amount of time performing clinical or laboratory research.
Upon completion of a Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology, a specialist seeks Board certification, a multi-step process. To become Board certified in Reproductive Endocrinology, the physician must first obtain Board certification in Obstetrics and Gynecology. This requires successful completion of both a written and an oral examination. Board certification in Reproductive Endocrinology requires successful completion of additional written and oral examinations. The entire certification process takes several years to complete. Only a physician who has successfully completed a Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and passed the examinations can become Board certified as an infertility specialist.
It is often quite difficult for a patient to determine whether or not their physician is an infertility specialist. Some physicians have gained skills through experience outside fellowship training, and some physicians successfully complete fellowship training and do not obtain Board certification. However, Board certification is the only objective criterion by which patients can measure a physician’s qualifications. Membership in the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI) is limited to board-certified reproductive endocrinologists, while associate members may be in a fellowship program or completing the examination process.
A fertility specialist focuses her practice in the treatment of infertility and stays abreast of the scientific discovery and technological advances in the field. She is usually associated with a fertility center or “program”. This specialization is necessary as advanced fertility treatment often requires the fertility specialist and her staff to be available seven days a week in order to accommodate those procedures that need to be performed, even over the weekend or holiday.