MHPG Message from the Chair

Dear Fellow MHPG Members:

Greetings from Charleston, South Carolina! I hope this newsletter finds you all well. Hawaii is now a distant memory with all the cold weather we have had across the country. 

Even though Hawaii was difficult for many members to attend, it was a wonderful educational experience and chance to see friends. Liz Grill and Dorothy Greenfeld chaired interesting PG courses on Cross-border Care in Infertility treatment and the Embryo, respectively. Claudia Pascale, Angela Lawson, and Kim Bergman each chaired an interesting, relevant symposium on gender selection,  posthumous reproduction, and helping HIV+ Sero-discordant couples achieve a pregnancy, respectively. 

Something new that was added to the ASRM Annual Meeting in Hawaii this year was the host program. Several veteran ASRM meeting attendees signed up to serve as hosts to new meeting attendees. This program was initiated by the Membership Committee as a way to help MHPG members new to the ASRM Annual Meeting feel more comfortable. By all accounts, the program was a great success. We plan to repeat the host program in Baltimore, MD in October 2015. Since the Annual Meeting is back on the Mainland, we hope to see more of you there! We have an exciting program planned for the ASRM Annual Meeting in Baltimore. 

We have three Postgraduate courses, one by the MHPG (Sunday, October 18th) and two  that are jointly sponsored (Saturday, October 17th). This will likely be the pattern for PG courses for the future, one MHPG course and some that are offered jointly with another Professional or Special Interest Group. The course offered by MHPG in 2015 is “Helping Patients Cope with the Psychological and Medical Sequelae of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss”. The faculty includes Angela Lawson, PhD; Sharon Covington, MSW, LCSW-C; Bill Petok, PhD; and Mary Stephenson, MD. The second course is a joint effort between the Fertility Preservation Special Interest Group and MHPG, “Options for Emergency and Elective Fertility Preservation (FP)- The Team Approach”. The faculty includes Elizabeth Grill, PsyD; Nicole Noyes, MD; and Clarissa Gracia, M.D. Lastly, we have a joint effort between the Society of Reproductive Surgeons, the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists, and MHPG, “Interprofessional Approach to Counsel and to Optimize Treatment Outcomes in Couples with Recurrent ICSI Failure and Poor Sperm Quality”. The falculty includes Peter Chan, MD; Lauri Pasch, PhD; Gianpiero Palermo, MD, PhD; and Denny Sakkas, PhD.

The Scientific Program is equally exciting and relevant. We have a great line-up of symposia on some of the technologies and the attendant psychological issues mental health professionals need to know to help patients understand and cope with the maze of treatment options: “A Scientific and Molecular Primer for PGS for Mental Health Professionals” with faculty Jamie Grifo MD, PhD,;Dagan Wells, PhD; and Julia Woodward, PhD Chair; “Prevention of Mitochondrial Disease: Ethics and Controversy” with faculty Paula Amato, MD; Misha Angrist, PhD; and Shelley Lee, PhD, Chair; and “Prenatal Screening and Diagnosis in Conjunction with Infertility Treatment: The Burden of Choices” with faculty Julie Bindeman, PsyD; David Keefe, MD, PhD; and Joann Galst, PhD, as Chair. Please note that the symposia times will be different in Baltimore. In the past, our symposia were held in the mornings. In Baltimore, they will be held in the afternoons from 4:00-5:30pm on Monday and Tuesday and 3:00-4:30 on Wednesday. MHPG also will offer two roundtable options each day of the meeting, as well as a clinical consultation meeting.

MHPG is the main organization providing postgraduate education for mental health clinicians working with infertility patients. We are proud of that service, and want to continue that mission. It has become clear that as MHPG grows, there is a need to diversify the educational offerings to professionals at all levels of clinical experience. As you can see from the description of the Postgraduate and Scientific programs for the ASRM meeting in Baltimore, many of the topics are more advanced. The opportunities to meet the educational needs of all MHPG members at the ASRM Annual Meeting are limited. As such, the MHPG has been hard at work establishing an infrastructure that will allow the MHPG to provide educational opportunities that offer CE credits throughout the year, in a variety of media, and that address a wider range of clinical issues and clinician experience. This project began last year with MHPG sponsoring CE’ for several regional conferences. We will sponsor CE credits for two regional conferences (so far) this year: “When it Takes More than Two to Make a Baby” in Philadelphia May 13-15, 2015 and the SEEDS conference, “Current Ethical Challenges in Egg Donation and Surrogacy” in Long Beach, California, June 5 and 6, 2015. The Executive Committee, along with the newly created Continuing Education Committee, is reviewing an existing ASRM eLearn® module that is a great introduction to basic infertility for the possibility of offering CE credits sponsored by MHPG. We also are working toward a long-term goal of creating a certificate course through the ASRM eLearn® format from the MHPG that will address issues regarding training in the psychology of infertility in a comprehensive way. This will meet the needs of our members and others, as well as help further establish MHPG as the leader of education in infertility counseling. Another potential source of educational opportunities and CE credits is through webinars that will be accessed through ASRM. We hope to have some portion of an eLearn® course and a webinar available for CE credits within the next 18 months. 

In addition to the Continuing Education Committee, the Educational Resources Committee was created last summer to meet the growing needs of the MHPG. You will also notice that the MHPG webpage has been reorganized with links to conference information as well as “How to…” documents that will help you learn about the process of developing the Postgraduate and Scientific programs for the ASRM Annual Meeting, as well as how to create a course outside of the ASRM Annual Meeting for which MHPG would sponsor CE credits. Through our newly-created Social Media Task Force, we hope to learn how to bring the MHPG and awareness of mental health issues in infertility and reproduction to the attention of a wider audience.

Finally, I would like to thank all the MHPG committee and task force members who so graciously volunteer their time in their current positions, as well as those who have stewarded the MHPG through the years. The MHPG began as a small group of people who met each other at the ASRM Annual Meeting in 1984 and 1985. Dorothy Greenfeld, Linda Applegarth, and Sharon Covington are three of the original members. They identified a need to address the mental health issues of patients experiencing infertility; to expand scientific and clinical knowledge of the field; and to educate mental health professionals and other clinicians involved in the brave new world of artificial reproductive technologies. There have been many changes and challenges in the technology and psychological issues ART patients and clinicians face in the 30 years since the inception of MHPG. There will be many more in the years to come. I hope you will consider joining a committee or task force to help MHPG continue to lead the way in educating mental health professionals about the needs of infertility patients.

Piave Pitisci Lake, M.D.





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