Episode 170: WorkLIFE Balance: The Need for Family Building Support in the Workplace
This Veteran’s Day, we’re featuring Brian Tucker, a Veteran who is outspoken about his experience with male factor infertility. He is also an HR disruptor who knows that employers, are, in part, responsible for executing the American Dream.
On the path to building a family, Brian and his wife, Jenny, found themselves at a financial crossroad. Their coverage for fertility treatment was miscommunicated, which left them confused about what they actually need to pay vs what was covered. Left completely in the dark, with one common goal of having a child, they chose the only clear-cut financial benefit that was laid out for them, a Veteran’s discount. Having experienced this, Brian now speaks about his experience – and has presented at DisruptHR, where he discussed the need for more support in the workplace.
Listen to him here: Brian Tucker: Work LIFE Balance Talk
We also hear from Dr. Tolulope Bakare, a Reproductive Urologist from Posterity Health, and Dr. Ron Feinberg, Reproductive Endocrinologist from RADfertility of CCRM, about the treatment options when diagnosed with male factor infertility.
- Brian Tucker, Director of Human Resources at Elior North America, Veteran, and Infertility Advocate
- Dr. Ron Feinberg, RADfertility
- Dr. Tolulope Bakare, Posterity Health
Host: Dan Bulger, Progyny
For more information, visit Progyny’s Podcast page and Progyny’s Education page for more resources. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcast and use the #ThisisInfertility. Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some highlights from this episode:
Visit the Right Specialist
04:59 – 12:08
Brian Tucker: As we were a few months in, and it wasn’t happening as quickly as we thought it was going to happen. We did some initial testing, and then we ended up with two doctors. One doctor was focused on me, and one doctor was focused on Jenny. I think the term they might have used was general infertility, which really doesn’t tell you anything. But they were pretty confident that this was male driven. So, the opportunity for improvement existed with me.
Dr. Bakare: Historically, the woman has been really scrutinized heavily for reproductive issues, you know, many couples go a year or two without ever having the man be evaluated while focusing entirely on the evaluation of their partner. Fortunately, this is changing and we’re really starting to see men approach their reproductive urologist first for evaluation.
Dr. Feinberg: If a gentleman has a sperm count that we don’t think is optimal. One could make a good argument that the male partner should be referred to a Reproductive Urologist for full evaluation. They are better suited and maybe that would improve the chances of either spontaneous conception or IUI at that point.
Dr. Bakare: There are many times that we recommend patients to proceed with IUI or IVF. Or based on what the conversation with an REI is, there are times that unfortunately, we are not able to actually get sperm ejaculate, for many reasons, including genetic reasons or developmental reasons. However, we can still do certain procedures that can help us retrieve sperm either from their epididymis, which is a part of the reproductive system that is in the scrotum, or from their testicle by getting sperm directly from the testicle that they can then use in assisted reproductive techniques like IVF.
Dr. Feinberg: ICSI stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. ICSI is a part of in vitro fertilization, IVF. But it involves a more proactive fertilization attempt of the egg. So, it’s a micro injection procedure, where, under very careful technique, our embryologist would draw up single sperm into a very tiny pipette, which is carefully injected into the cytoplasm. It’s a very commonly used technique.
Fertility Coverage: The Mystery Box
12:28 – 18:32
Brian Tucker: We started IUI. We were unsuccessful after a few rounds of that. And then, the main doctor, which was the doctor that was also focused on Jenny said, look, I’m just going to be honest, we can keep trying IUI, I don’t think it’s going to work for you. I think IVF has a much better chance of success for you. So that’s the route we want to take. We were both reaching out to the HR departments and the companies we work for, trying to understand what was covered or what wasn’t covered and what this financial hit was going to look like for us. Jenny’s insurance had some coverage and we were trying to ask what we thought was a pretty simple question, which is, can you just give us an estimate on what this is going to cost? The clinic couldn’t tell us what it was going to cost. But nor would the insurance company tell us what was going to be covered and what the final bill might look like. So, we couldn’t really make a decision there.Dan Bulger: They were able to move ahead, choosing to go with cash and a Veterans discount rather than the mystery box that was their fertility coverage option. And they had a very successful egg retrieval yielding multiple embryos. And then they prepared for an embryo transfer.
Brian Tucker: The first transfer was not good, but the second transfer actually succeeded. And we were like, okay, there’s a little bit of joy here, but still so much nervousness and apprehension and just trying to not get too excited about it. And as we were planning to keep that one very quiet, we had a visit from my in-laws. And they picked up very quickly that Jenny didn’t have anything to drink. So, they started asking questions. And we said, “Yeah, we have, you know, some news to share, but let’s please keep this quiet, we’re still not out of the woodwork yet.” And then we went back two weeks later for our next appointment and found out that, you know, there was a miscarriage. And so that was devastating to deal with, after a little bit of joy and hope and feeling that we’re moving past the worst of it. That just happened at the worst time. We said, you know what, enough. Enough of suffering, enough of wondering what negative things are going to happen. We’re going to be positive; this is going to be successful; this is going to be amazing. And so, number three was a success, my daughter Savannah was born about three years ago. And then number four was a success. So, our daughter Paris was born a little under a year ago.
1/6 of Your Employees are Disengaged
19:10 – 20:43
Dan Bulger: Brian became a speaker on a platform called DisruptHR. DisruptHR speaking events are an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field. And Brian is one heck of a speaker. In his talk. He goes into workplace culture, and he highlights the need for more support. His talk is called work LIFE balance.Brian Tucker: If we’re going to look at engaging a workforce, if we’re going to look at employers’ responsibility and part in the American Dream. We have to look at all the ways that we can support, you know, everything that happens outside of work. So, if one in six of your employees is dealing with infertility, and you’re ignoring it, you have a disengaged workforce, a large number of people that are disengaged at work. I think, whether you make it across the board, or you make it an optional coverage, just having it will help so many people. You know, if we knew at that time that we did not have coverage, that there was an option to maybe spend a little bit more money on insurance, so that we would have that in case we needed it, versus needing to stockpile a bunch of money. It would have relieved a lot of anxiety for us.
Dan has been in the healthcare industry for the past ten plus years as a multimedia content producer. Better known as ‘Video Dan’ he has interviewed numerous doctors, patients and other experts in the world of fertility. He’s also the producer for this podcast, This is Infertility and the producer behind the Progyny YouTube Channel which features interviews with dozens of the nation’s leading fertility specialists. On a personal note Dan’s parents started fostering kids when he was four years old, and he considers himself a proud older brother to over 100 foster children.
Brian Tucker is a veteran of the hospitality industry with close to 30 years of experience. He has worked in stand-alone restaurants, high-end catering, and contract food service. He is currently a Human Resources Director for a hospitality company supporting the healthcare industry. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and 2 daughters. Due to the challenges they faced during their infertility journey, Brian has begun to speak publicly at HR events and conferences about how employers and coworkers can best support families dealing with infertility. One of his goals is to throw a benefit to raise money to financially support other families who struggle with infertility.
Tolulope Bakare, MD, is a reproductive urologist who graduated from Penn State College of Medicine and completed her urology residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Dr. Bakare did her fellowship at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, where she received expert training in andrology, male infertility, microsurgery, and men’s health. She is passionate about treating males and helping them fulfill their family goals.
Dr. Bakare is also affiliated with many professional organizations, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, American Urological Association, Society for Women in Urology, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. She is a board member of Society for the Study of Male Reproduction and the secretary of R. Frank Jones Urology Society.
Dr. Ron Feinberg has been caring for patients with reproductive and family building challenges for over 25 years. His background and efforts in translational and clinical research have focused on the key “seeds and soil” issues of assisted reproduction that promote healthy embryo-endometrial implantation. As IVF Director of RADfertility, he led efforts toward 100% single embryo transfer in the practice, and has utilized RADfertility’s multi year outcomes to advocate for fertility care legislative insurance mandates in Delaware. Dr. Feinberg believes that single embryo transfer also enhances ongoing and future clinical research pursuits designed to identify implantation-competent embryos, the characteristics of an implantation-receptive endometrium, and the progress of a developing pregnancy.
He is a proud Philadelphia native, a graduate of LaSalle University, and achieved MD and PhD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. His clinical training was at Yale-New Haven Hospital for ob/gyn residency, and at Penn for fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. While an assistant professor at Penn he was awarded independent research grants from the March of Dimes and the NIH. He currently serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware and the ChristianaCare Health System, and has served as Principal Investigator for numerous clinical trials.
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Lee Rosevere