Find Orlando Family Magazine on Facebook! Follow Orlando Family Magazine on Twitter!

The Perfect Fit

Although the patients who visit Dr. George Patounakis at Reproductive Medicine Associates (RMA) Florida can be described as hopeful parents, often, “hope” is exactly what they are most in need of. Many have been told at other fertility clinics that they cannot use their own eggs or sperm to make an embryo or will not be able to carry a pregnancy, and their dreams of becoming mothers and fathers may feel like helpless pursuits.

But Dr. Patounakis and the rest of the RMA team thrive in such situations and being able to restore their patients’ faith is one of the most gratifying aspects of the profession.

“We see quite a few patients who have tried IVF [in vitro fertilization] before and have not been successful, but they come here, and they are successful,” Dr. Patounakis says. “Those are some of the most rewarding cases because essentially we’re giving that couple something they were initially hoping for and thought they had lost.”

Those struggling with infertility have plenty of options these days, but RMA has managed to stand out from the crowd and is right at the top of the list. Founded in 1999, the practice has 23 locations in six states and has emerged as a world-renowned leader in the field, with success rates significantly higher than the national average. RMA Florida offers a full range of services in addition to IVF, utilizing innovative procedures, technological advancements and patient-centered care to cure a problem that affects approximately one in eight couples in the United States.

Choosing the right fertility specialist is an important and personal choice, and several factors should be considered ahead of time. RMA checks off all of the boxes and takes pride in offering world-class treatment with a personal touch.

Consider the science

A significant reason that the advancements in reproductive medicine have outpaced almost every other medical specialty in the past few decades is the commitment to research from doctors, scientists and academics worldwide. RMA is doing its part to push the field forward and act as an innovator.

“Not many private practice fertility clinics meet that criteria,” Dr. Patounakis says. “What we have at RMA is the combination of a large private practice group that also participates and generates quite a bit of research. We can then translate the research findings to help increase success rates and increase safety to patient care much, much faster.”

By asking the difficult questions—such as, “Why is the uterus only receptive to an embryo for about 24 hours each cycle?” and “Why is an embryo biopsy better performed on day five or six of growth than day three?”—and then discovering the answers, they can improve live birth outcomes.

RMA’s findings are often published in medical journals, and the data is also easily accessible on their website. Dr. Patounakis and the other doctors broaden their knowledge base by participating in local and national conferences as frequently as possible.

“The research has led to growth in the field, along with more awareness regarding infertility and people seeking help when they should instead of waiting too long,” he says, adding that his particular areas of interest when it comes to research include trying to predict IVF outcomes, how endometriosis affects IVF outcomes and treatments that can be used to mitigate the risks.

Safety first

Although many patients seeking a fertility clinic may feel overwhelmed or desperate, their safety remains paramount. A practice that uses evidence-based medicine and the latest technology available can help ease their concerns.

One of the game-changers in the field has been the success of single-embryo transfers through breakthroughs like advanced embryo culture, trophectoderm biopsy and preimplantation genetic testing.

“In general, anything that will increase the success rates should also be increasing safety,” Dr. Patounakis says. “In the past, people had to overcome the shortcomings in embryo culture by transferring more than one embryo at a time and doing it earlier because you didn’t know which one would be the best. By doing that, you can create a situation of twins or even triplets that is unsafe for the pregnancy.

“But as research and technology have improved, we’ve found ways to narrow down which embryo will be the one that can result in a live birth. We only transfer one embryo at a time, which dramatically decreases the chance of twins and eliminates the chance of triplets. That is a huge part of making the treatment safer.”

A single-embryo transfer is not yet standard in the field, even though research has proven that double-embryo transfer increases the risk of miscarriage, lower birth weight and longer stays in the NICU.

“Unfortunately, there are still quite a few clinics that will transfer more than one embryo in patients with a good prognosis,” Dr. Patounakis says. “It’s certainly not something supported by many societies that help guide what we do. Honestly, it’s not necessary, given where technology is today.”

A measure of success

It’s one thing for a fertility clinic to brag about its success rates and make promises to patients about their ability to get pregnant. It’s quite another to back up those words with a proven track record.

RMA reports its results to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), and the data is publicly available.

“We are part of, which means we are held to a certain standard of record-keeping and prospective reporting,” Dr. Patounakis says. “If we start an IVF cycle, we have to report it before that patient even gets a couple of days into it. You can’t hide your bad IVF cycles to improve your overall success rates because you have to report everything prospectively.

“If people aren’t reporting to SART, they can say whatever they want and brush aside the cycles that don’t even make it to egg retrieval and not count them in the statistics to look better. But with SART, they do watch what you report, and there’s a possibility that SART can come in and access your records to double-check and make sure you are reporting things accurately.”

RMA stands up to that kind of inspection and can point to success rates that are 10-15% higher than other fertility centers. “Our success rates are much higher than the national average, even with taking plenty of patients who have failed at other clinics,” he adds.

Support team

Support comes in many forms at RMA, as each patient is assigned a provider, a nurse and a financial counselor to assist on every step of their journey.

“That’s very, very important,” Dr. Patounakis says. “It all starts at the front desk. As soon as the patients come in and when they’re waiting, seeing a familiar face and having a friendly chat can immediately change how someone feels. When they come back for their ultrasound or blood work, they see familiar faces again. It’s always the same friendly people, so they know what to expect and feel assured and comfortable in our care.”

Dr. Patounakis loves receiving pictures or invitations to birthday parties down the line after a couple has successfully given birth with the help of RMA’s efforts. But just as meaningful is being able to guide patients through the rocky steps on the path to parenthood, like a miscarriage.

“We get to support them through some of the happiest times of their lives and be with them during some of the saddest times,” he says. “They feel cared for with us. If you have to go through a fertility problem, most people say they’re happy to go through something like that with us because they feel like we’re all family. When they’re hurting, we’re also hurting with them.”

RMA can also point patients to other helpful resources, such as FertiliFriends, a private Facebook group that allows people in the fertility community to ask questions and share their story, or Resolve: The National Infertility Association, which advocates on behalf of and shares knowledge with those facing challenges to family building.

Continuing to grow

The final piece of the puzzle is finding a clinic that constantly strives to improve the experience for its patients and does not rest on its past success. The RMA Florida team continues to grow, adding more support staff and personnel in their andrology and embryology laboratories while retaining the family feel and the ability to pay close attention to every patient.

“We saw our first patient in December 2017, and we just celebrated our five-year anniversary.” Dr. Patounakis says. “We’ve grown quite a bit, and we’ve certainly made a name for ourselves in Central Florida. I think things have gone very well, and it’s not only because we practice good medicine and because we’re supported through excellent research to get good outcomes, but because we provide a level of emotional support that is often not found elsewhere.”


Reproductive Medicine Associates Florida

Serving Central Florida

400 Colonial Center Parkway, Suite 150

Lake Mary | (407) 804-9670