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Dr. John Thorp, division chief for Women’s Primary Healthcare, announces the opening of a new fertility awareness clinic, Reply Ob/Gyn & Fertility, PLLC, an affiliate of KNDR HealthCare, LLC.

Dr. John Thorp

I am pleased to announce the opening of the new fertility awareness clinic, Reply Ob/Gyn & Fertility, PLLC, an affiliate of KNDR HealthCare, LLC. The clinic, located in the Panther Creek area of Western Wake County (between Apex, Cary, and Morrisville) will have a soft launch in late July, followed by a public launch in September following Labor Day. UNC OB/GYN faculty from the Women’s Primary Health division will supply clinical services through a professional services agreement with Reply and KNDR.

As many of you know, this project has been in development for the past two years, prompted largely by the UNC sabbatical of Dr. Joe Stanford, a University of Utah clinician-researcher dedicated to cooperative-restorative reproductive medicine. Our development period has included trips to numerous conferences and training programs throughout the U.S. and to Chile, Ireland, Sweden, and Italy, as well as four local retreats for our team. KNDR, a for-profit healthcare company dedicated to expanding options and improving outcomes for women/couples faced, in particular, with subfertility and recurrent miscarriage has funded the development period and remains involved by supplying venture capital and business services for the clinic. Most of KNDR’s investors and executive staff became social entrepreneurs on these issues as a result of being personally affected by these conditions. KNDR Medical Director Dr. David Merrill, a former chairman of Wake Forest OB/GYN, is the Reply clinic owner.

This is an exciting accomplishment for our department and represents a significant investment (upwards of $3M) in the Reply practice. Much of the credit for this accomplishment goes to our departmental leadership, in particular to Dr. Daniel Clarke-Pearson and Kim Schneider, for smoothing the way for us to be able to develop this program. I am grateful for the hard work it took to make this opportunity a reality, and hopeful that patients will welcome and benefit from the services we will offer.

Reply will provide primary care to women founded on fertility awareness methods (cycle charting) used to avoid or achieve pregnancy, as well as to guide clinical interventions. Here are some important points to note:

  1. Our division has long desired to expand our clinical services in this rapidly growing geographic area, but has lacked the capital to up-fit an office. While Reply is technically not a UNC OB/GYN practice, it does constitute a presence for us in Panther Creek. Births, procedures, and diagnostic studies that originate from the Reply practice will be provided at UNC.
  2. Reply will be staffed primarily by two physicians – Rachel Urrutia and Amina White – who are extraordinarily well-trained clinicians with post-residency training in public health, preventive medicine (RU), and biomedical ethics with an emphasis on trauma (AW). Dr. White started a similar practice at Howard University and, over the last year, has worked as bioethics faculty at the NIH Clnical Center. (See Dr. Urrutia’s bio and CV; Dr. White’s bio and CV.)
  3. Reply will import a German fertility awareness method, Sensiplan, to teach to couples seeking to avoid pregnancy. This is the first time Sensiplan will be taught in the U.S. The German team will be in Chapel Hill July 24-28 for training of the Reply team and other interested professionals. Anyone interested in joining us is welcome to attend. In addition, we are exploring development of a smartphone charting app customized to Reply’s needs. We likely will either develop a new app working with Sheps Center, or modify an existing app such as Kindara. Click on the links for more information on SensiplanKindara

Our REI Division Director, Marc Fritz, an international leader in reproductive endocrinology, has agreed to advise us on protocol development for treating subfertile couples. We consider the rationales outlined in the Fritz-Speroff textbook regarding cycle charting to be an important springboard for the Reply approach, and we are grateful for Marc’s expertise and accessibility. We are hopeful that discussion between UNC Fertility and Reply will benefit both entities and produce gains in reproductive medicine.

Building a practice from the ground up has allowed us to incorporate two important components that are usually added on after a practice is clinically busy. First, patient education will be at the front door of Reply. Couples wishing to cycle chart will need coaching, and we have hired Lori Hartley, BSN, to be our fertility educator. Many of you know Lori from her work in both the hospital and Timberlyne clinics, and this new job will build upon the graduate degree she is earning in nurse education. Second, we will embed research into each patient encounter, allowing us not only to determine the effectiveness of our care protocols, but also to study the impact of varied exposures on fecundity.

UNC OB/GYN has a rich history in the latter area, stretching from Bert Peterson through Kathy Hartmann down to Anne Steiner. Moreover, the Research Triangle has been on the cutting edge of studying this phenomena at the School of Public Health, Carolina Population Center, and NIEHS. Reply is supporting development of a new clinical cohort, The Biomarker-based Study of Fertility and Health Outcomes (Biofertility), for which Rachel Urrutia and Elizabeth Jensen, Ph.D., will serve as principal investigators. Elizabeth Jensen is a doctorally prepared reproductive epidemiologist, junior faculty member at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and former post doctoral fellow of Professor Allen Wilcox at NIEHS who pioneered fecundity research.

Here are photos below of the new space, where construction is nearing completion, and I will be happy to keep you advised of our progress. I am also available to any of you for questions, concerns, or comments.

Gratefully yours,

John Thorp