Fertility Specialist Samuel S. Thatcher Loses Cancer Fight

Submitted by Angie Sat 12/19/2009

by Angie Best-Boss

A good man died yesterday. You may not have ever heard of him, unless you were one of his patients and that’s a shame, because he was, quite simply, one of the smartest, most dedicated men I’ve known.
R Samuel S. Thatcher, M.D., Ph.D. was a reproductive endocrinologist who began his career in reproductive science in 1973 when studying the detrimental effects of aging on reproduction. This culminated in a Ph.D. in human anatomy/reproductive biology at West Virginia University, where he simultaneously received his M.D.

A year of post doctoral research was spent between Edinburgh and Johns Hopkins Universities. On completion of his residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Yale/New Haven Hospital, he returned to Edinburgh University as Lecturer in Reproductive Medicine and Medical Director of the IVF program of Edinburgh University and the Royal Infirmary. He completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and served on the faculty in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at Yale before returning to East Tennessee.

In 1988, Dr. Thatcher returned to his native East Tennessee to establish the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at East Tennessee State University. In 1995, he left his university position, enlisted a group of veteran health care professionals and formed the Center for Applied Reproductive Science (C.A.R.S.).

His research interests included reproductive aging, ovarian function, assisted reproduction and early human development. He was a member of over 20 national and international societies.

The irony for those of us who knew him was that he never got the professional accolades others did because he wasn’t afraid to speak the truth. In one controversial article for example, Sam suggested that “In reality, there is probably little that separates most ART centers. No center can guarantee a pregnancy. No center can precisely predict chances of success. Should we not start to downplay the business and mechanistic side of ART and concentrate on sound, individualized, cost-effective patient care in well-respected and proven centers?” While that may not sound controversial, suggesting that fertility clinics focus primarily on cost-effective care was, in some respects, revolutionary for the field.

That’s why my co-author, Evelina Sterling, PhD and I asked him to write the forward to our last book, “Budgeting for Infertility: Bringing Home Baby Without Breaking the Bank” because we were so grateful for his professionalism, dedication and compassion. Sam was also the author of Making a Baby: Everything You Need to Know to Get Pregnant and PCOS: The Hidden Epidemic. His PCOS book is arguably the best, most thorough resource tool available, even a decade later. In May of this year, Sam began his battle with acute myelogeneous leukemia. Knowing Sam, we all thought he’d win. After all, he’d diagnosed himself. Surely anyone as strong and smart and capable as Sam could do it. Despite aggressive treatment at Vanderbilt Cancer Center, Sam never returned to his practice and passed away Friday afternoon, December 18, 2009 in ICU, with his wife Helen nearby.

Sam leaves a legacy of hundreds of families created through his clinic, expertise and research, as well as colleagues who have lost a friend.

If you would like to make a donation in Sam’s memory, consider making a gift to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 1311 Mamaroneck Avenue White Plains, NY 10605 914.949.5213 www.LLS.org

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