They are our coworkers and our bosses.
I knew them as patients, and as friends. Each sat regularly, too often really, in my old office at Saint Barnabas, knowledgeable from their background reading and web searching, shoulders squared, eyes fixed on mine, poised and confident, and trying their hardest not to cry.
A year ago, I was asked to join the Board of Directors of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Asssociation, an organization that I knew of seemingly from the first day that I saw my first patient. When a patient needed education, support, direction, or simply the company of others experiencing the same disappointment, RESOLVE was always there. I never really stopped to think about how remarkable an organization RESOLVE was, or how RESOLVE volunteers always seemed to magically pop up whenever and wherever they were needed.
I took this angel-like presence as a given. And I assumed that all of the great work that RESOLVE did was generously supported by those whom they benefited.
And I don't mean just the patients who benefit. On any given day, RESOLVE volunteers assume the work of clinic staffs, pharmaceutical company technical support, laboratory administrative support, insurance company representatives, and social workers. This small army of volunteers quietly facilitates the treatment of 7 million people.
And that’s the problem. RESOLVE does this too quietly. When I joined the board, I learned a little secret.
RESOLVE gives all this great work away.
Which means that RESOLVE has financial reserves that barely cover its tiny budget year-to-year, and faces major constraints and difficult choices when new challenges to its mission emerge. Challenges like creating and maintaining a social media presence sufficient for a technology-dependent constituency, or growing and its advocacy work at the local, state and federal levels, providing person-to-person education to lawmakers and their staffs.
There are 2.8 million women in the United States with breast cancer, and a single charity supporting women with breast cancer collects over $400 million per year. The American Heart Association collects over $600 million per year. The American Cancer Society collects over $900 million per year.
Of course we cannot compare cancer to infertility. Of course infertility, like cancer, disrupts the lives of those afflicted for years. Infertility, like cancer, radically alters patients’ life plans, and inflicts pain that is never forgotten. Like cancer pain, the pain of infertility affects an extended family. And like cancer, infertility creates a void and a vacuum of sadness in the lives of those that it affects.
I guess I was wrong. On some levels we can compare infertility and cancer.
We generously support cancer patients, as we should. The American Cancer Society collects over $70 for each person with cancer in the United States per year.
We support infertility patients, but not so generously. RESOLVE, the largest infertility nonprofit in the United States, collects 21 cents for each of the 7 million people in the United States with infertility.
350 times less per patient than what the American Cancer Society collects.
Let’s do an experiment. Let's put charitable support aside for the moment. Let's look at this as a business.
I said before that from day one of my medical career, indeed for the past 40 years, RESOLVE was always there.
How many times, over the years, did I answer a patient's complex question with, “You should speak with RESOLVE?”
How many times, when I sensed that a patient needed greater support than I, or my staff, could offer, did I refer that patient to RESOLVE?
Working in the healthcare industry, I've gotten to know many of the excellent infertility-related companies. They are all dedicated to good customer service. Many have helplines and online web support for their products. And when patients ask questions beyond the narrow focus of the company's product, how do these companies respond?
They refer the patients to RESOLVE.
What would these doctors’ offices and company marketing departments do without RESOLVE?
They would hire more staff. They would work longer hours.
They would do the right thing.
In other words, they would spend a lot of money to optimally take care of their patients.
But they do not have to spend all that money to deliver optimal care. RESOLVE does it for them.
RESOLVE is one of the great nonprofits in the United States. As a nonprofit and charity, RESOLVE does everything right. If you need help RESOLVE is there. If you need support RESOLVE is there. If you need to learn about your condition and your treatment options, RESOLVE is there.
All the time.
But we should also need to look at this sort of as a business. For forty years, RESOLVE has provided an incredible service to the infertility community AND done incredibly valuable work for just about every infertility practice in the United States, and every pharmaceutical, medical device, and laboratory that treats these patients.
Did I mention that RESOLVE does not get paid for this work?
Maybe it’s time for us to to support RESOLVE the way RESOLVE supports us.
More on how to support RESOLVE soon.