A Unique Doctor
Adam Balen’s world leading contributions stem from his breadth of research and significant roles in national and international organisations, all whilst working fulltime as an NHS consultant. His pioneering work spans all aspects of reproductive medicine, surgery and endocrinology, and includes major contributions to research in infertility and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Adam’s substantial body of research in these areas has had a significant influence on women’s healthcare – a discipline typically neglected to the detriment of 51% of the population. His world-renowned expertise in paediatric and adolescent gynaecology and surgery has helped shape the management of rare congenital conditions of sexual development. Adam’s interdisciplinary work and research also includes plastic surgery, cardiovascular and metabolic medicine, genetics, psychology, dermatology, epilepsy and prion disease. Indeed no other doctor in the UK has his spectrum of skills or could do the job that he does.
Books, Research and World Renown
In addition to more than 260 highly cited research papers in the top reproductive medicine journals, Adam has written 15 books. The best selling Infertility in Practice has sold over 50,000 copies worldwide and has been widely translated (including Chinese) and impacts infertility care globally. Working as a fulltime clinician has allowed rapid translation of his research into both clinical practice and associated teaching of trainees and scientists. This has resulted in the department he leads, Leeds Fertility, becoming an internationally renowned centre for ground breaking research and educational excellence with excellent success rates. Indeed Leeds Fertility is one of the largest reproductive medicine units in the UK and one of the few to offer the full range of all assisted conception and reproductive medicine services.
Making a Difference
As Chair of the British Fertility Society, Adam created The Fertility Education Initiative and successfully lobbied to include reproductive health education on the national curriculum. He chairs the NHSE IVF Pricing Committee and developed a benchmark price to achieve equitable funding across the UK. Adam is sought after internationally as a lecturer and commentator and has a high media profile including contributions to several television documentaries.
Adam has also held a number of important international roles, including chairing committees for the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Indeed he was responsible for the production of a global guideline for the management of PCOS and sits on the Guideline Development Group for the WHO which is producing guidance for the management of all aspects of infertility. Adam is also a member of the Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists for whom he is the spokesperson on all matters relating to reproductive health.
My story starts in late July 1978, my last lazy school summer holiday before starting medical school, nothing much was happening and then the headlines that I remember with such clarity and, without realising, would define my life and my career. “The Miracle Baby” announcing the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF (“test tube”) baby and the culmination of years of painstaking research led by Bob Edwards, in whose clinic I would work some ten years later and who would only be recognised as a Nobel laureate in the twilight of his life because of the controversies and ethical conundrums that have entangled the “brave new world” of reproductive medicine.
Later, a brief spell in training to become a GP somehow evolved into a year working in an old mission hospital in a terribly deprived area of southern Africa. There, as one of three doctors, I found myself doing all manner of things that I wasn’t trained to do, including running both the maternity and paediatric units literally single-handedly. I will never forget the heartbreaking scenes of small children dying from malnutrition, especially when measles hit and rampaged through the ward. Infertility was a big taboo and a social stigma, the witch doctors had their “cures” and the fault was always with the woman, never even contemplated as being a male problem. I returned to London and switched from the world of general practice to a career in obstetrics and gynaecology, fired up by my African experiences, which also provided me with the confidence to push boundaries and develop new things.
Serendipity took me to work for the wonderful Professor Howard Jacobs, to this day my great mentor and true friend. Howard fused the world of hormones (endocrinology) with reproductive science led by Bob Edwards and ultrasound pioneered by Professor Stuart Campbell – all true world leaders. These were new and exciting times and those of us working in the field around the world were small enough in number to not only all know each other but also remain friends to this day. By then we were really riding the second crest of the wave yet it was still a highly innovative and unique time.
My work over the last thirty years has been devoted to the understanding of reproduction and the causes of infertility, in particular hormonal disturbances in women and the Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I don’t believe that there is a more varied or satisfying job in the whole of medicine. The field of Reproductive Medicine is fascinating and has enabled me to develop skills and interests and a broad sphere including the most advanced of scientific and laboratory technology, complex surgery and assisted conception techniques – the very creation of life. It has been an immense privilege and pleasure to serve my patients and be a part of their journeys, which are invariably “emotional rollercoasters” and may be full of sadness and heartache but more often than not results in great joy.
I have learnt over the years that reproductive health provides a window into the overall health of our patients and enhancing health before embarking on a pregnancy is not only likely to improve the outcomes of fertility treatment but also, more importantly, the outcomes for the baby. Throughout this site we describe how preconception health is of paramount importance for both mother and father and the long term health of the child through to adulthood.
I have been privileged also to serve in key roles on national and international organisations, including the British Fertility Society, Chair of the World Health Organisation guideline group on PCOS and the WHO global infertility guideline group, the European fertility society (ESHRE) and the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
I have written 15 books, the latest The Fertility Book co-authored with Grace is being published this year. When I was Chair of the British Fertility Society I founded The Fertility Education Initiative to improve the provision of education to young people about all aspects of reproductive health, including factors that may influence their future fertility. We have even managed to get this put on the national curriculum for schools in the UK. It was at our first meeting that I met Grace and realised that we share a passion for providing the best information and advice about reproductive health to people of all ages, whether thinking and planning for the future or currently trying to conceive. In trying to help you, we share our years of collective knowledge and experience to help guide you on your fertility journey……