On The Tik-Tokization Of IVF

David Sable
4 min readFeb 19, 2024

We’ve seen it before, and it works

I’ve met Lucky Sekhon, once or twice, but I see her just about every day.

Today, my daily two-minute run-through of Instagram reels includes Dr. Sekhon as mom (recording her kids’ different reactions to spaghetti and Brussel sprouts), spouse (banter about about how engineering the length of the Verrazzanno Narrows Bridge had to account for the curvature of the earth), doctor in the family (do Cheerios cause infertility?) and, most importantly, as REI (a succinct discussion of day seven embryo transfer.)

A few circles over, our colleague Roohi Jeelani conducts a rapid-fire Q and A from IVF patients. Does an IVF drug affect blood sugar control? What can I do about my high percentage of immature eggs? How come I have no pregnancy symptoms? A few dashes at the top of the Instagram screen later I’m sharing breakfast with Dr Jeelani’s husband, then catching a couple of shots of what appears to be a quick trip to Mexico.

The two-minute social media drill often includes Brian Levine, possibly the most energetic REI in America, and his 5AM workout (Dr. Levine is one of the few grown-ups who can make a backwards baseball cap work), attached to information on gestational carriers and surrogacy, and my old medical partner and best friend in all of healthcare Serena Chen. Dr. Chen combines activism (see her work at Doctors for Fertility ([www.doctorsforfertility.com]), meditation, superior patient care and education, and the elusive charms of Northern New Jersey nature.

What does this old-school, outer part of career, possibly out-of-touch with the modern world REI think of this tik-tokization of IVF and reproductive endocrinology?

Let’s travel back to October, 1997 to find out.

I’m on a Continental Airlines flight from Cincinnati to Newark, returning from ASRM. My computer, an old Dell running Windows 95, is open on the tray table and I’m writing a note summarizing my impressions of the meeting for my patients, which I will leave in the waiting room, the pages printed and stapled together by a gazillion-dollar Hewlett Packard printer the size of a pickup truck. When I get home, as an afterthought, I post the article on an internet message board for IVF patients called INCIID, short for the International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.

I figure no one will see it.

I figure wrong.

At the time I am planning to open my own IVF program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I want to walk to work and reclaim the hours I spend in the car commuting. But it’s a daunting project, and I lack a referral base outside of New Jersey.

My post about ASRM draws a lot of responses, and a lot of questions from patients, questions which I start to answer. There is a clear line behind which you can be really helpful to a patient you have never met, a line that separates well-educated education from specific medical advice, and a lot of opportunity in that space to be helpful, with no barriers between you and the people you help.

Assisted Reproductive Medical Technologies of New York, ARMT, built in the reconstructed New York Fencing Club on Broadway and 71st Street, complete with endocrine, andrology and embryology laboratories and an IVF procedure room, opens in October of 1998. Patients, almost completely self-referred after encounters on INCIID, make appointments through an online service (this was nine years Zocdoc), and operates close to capacity from day one.

ARMT’s tech is primitive, but still pretty effective. It has its own website, fertility.net, with a message board for our patients and lots of FAQ’s describing what we do and how we do it. I have no text number to give out, so every patient has my email address, plus a promise that I will answer every email personally before midnight the day I receive it, with specific answers about their own care, and links to articles on ifertility in case they need more information. Everything is on my laptop, my EMR a modified version of Microsoft Outlook. My little Dell never leaves my side.

So what do I think of Drs. Sekhon, Jeelani, Levine, and Chen on Instagram and Facebook and TikTok? I love it. I respect it and I think that, done right, social media can be a really important part of efficient healthcare delivery.

And these four do it right. They teach, make themselves approachable and accessible, and make an opaque process transparent. They scale the dissemination of their knowledge and experience and wisdom in ways that INCIID and ifertility only hinted at.

And while I don’t think that an effective social media, online presence is a sufficient basis to judge a doctor or clinic, it can be a huge help in making that first connection, and the communication and ongoing education that follow.



David Sable

bio fund manager, Columbia prof, ex-reproductive endocrinologist, roadie for @PriyaMayadas. I post first drafts.