In 1981, the country’s first IVF baby was born after Howard and Georgeanna Jones—doctors who trained and held leadership positions at Johns Hopkins—brought this procedure to the U.S. Throughout the years since, the department team has continued making advancements in fertility care through research and advancements in technology. Next year, the Johns Hopkins Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility will start a new chapter linking this strong legacy in the field to the present. Valerie Baker, who currently serves as medical director and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Stanford, will become the division director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the inaugural TeLinde-Wallach Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins in 2019, a position endowed by Howard Jones.
“I feel so grateful to be able to lead the division I’ve been learning about since I was a medical student,” Baker says. “It’s an incredible opportunity to join this team during such an exciting period of growth.”
Baker, who received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and residency and fellowship training at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, will lead the division as their ambulatory clinical space expands dramatically. The division is currently in the planning phases, she says, to move the majority of its services and academic offices into a consolidated space.
Rather than sending patients elsewhere for procedures such as sperm retrieval, hysteroscopy, or dilation and curettage, these procedures will eventually be performed onsite, Baker explains. The assisted reproductive technology laboratory will also move to the same space and will continue to expand its services, offering more access to preimplantation genetic testing of embryos, ovarian tissue cryopreservation, egg freezing, and others.
Baker says that she also hopes to streamline workflows in ways that improve patient experience—for example, she says, making it easier for patients to coordinate care with other specialists at Johns Hopkins, such as rheumatologists or maternal-fetal medicine specialists, or to finance their treatments and work with insurance companies.
Each of these changes will be key to helping the division care for an increased number of patients, says Mindy Christianson, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology. “In the past five years, the number of patients who come here for just IVF has doubled,” Christianson says. “Dr. Baker’s leadership will help us better serve patients as our volume continues to grow.”
Baker says that she’s also excited to join the division during a time of rapid research discoveries, such as the outcomes and fertility preservation work by Christianson; research on nutritional contributors to uterine fibroids by Chantel Cross; and studies on uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and genetic causes of fertility by James Segars. She adds that she hopes to increase the number of outstanding physician-scientists within the division and mentor those early in their career to help them achieve their goals.
“Johns Hopkins has a strong legacy in this field and a group of clinician-scientists who will continue to advance patient care and research discoveries into the future,” Baker says.