When she was having fertility treatments for the first of her three IVF babies, Marjorie Dixon remembers a conversation with her embryologist – she had to look at him through her legs while she was lying on an examination table.
“I told myself, if I ever opened my own centre, I’d make sure that conversation happened from the side of the patient – not while she has her legs in stirrups and the clinician is sitting on the other side of her vagina.”
Dr. Dixon is the founder of Toronto’s Anova Fertility & Reproductive Health, and her practice has been designed to treat her patients with dignity and treat fertility and women’s sexual health as holistically as possible.
“What I do is a privilege,” Dr. Dixon says. “I get to educate people about their fertility potential and then we get to live our vision around patient-centred care in fertility and cutting-edge science by Canadians for Canadians.”
Dr. Dixon, who won the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Award last year, is committed making sure the fertility journey is as easy as possible.
“We look at our services from the perspective of our patient, not with the attitude that they’re lucky to have us as physicians,” she says. “We flip it to ask, ‘How can we better serve you? How can we give best-in-class, global-standard care while considering it from a human perspective?’”
Anova marries that philosophy with a scientific approach, to provide patients with the best possible options for live births. With a first IVF implantation success rate of 56 per cent, and 67 per cent with PGT-A, Anova is an industry leader (PGT-A, pre-implantation genetic testing to look for an abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell, is performed on embryos to identify healthy ones, ultimately improving success rates of implantation).
“Growing up, I was told I had power to change the world and that’s what I endeavour to do in my career,” Dr. Dixon says. “We have a department committed to research and development. We also have support groups for patients. This takes an emotional toll on couples, on women and their families.”
She launched with nine employees and now has more than 70. Departments include medical, nursing, operations, embryology and radiology. Dr. Dixon also employs naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists and fertility-specializing psychologists.
“We use a Western approach to medicine, but we treat the entire woman, so we consider how can we support women with alternative medicine. There are many elements to achieving pregnancy and we are advancing science daily to understand even more.”
Dr. Dixon has been a staunch advocate for national funding of IVF treatments to increase access for all. In addition, geography isn’t a barrier as several patients come from Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
“We see patients who live in remote areas in Ontario and internationally,” she says. “I do consultations over the Ontario Telemedicine Network.”
In her work, she also considers the patient beyond her fertility years. To that end, she offers a product that enhances women’s sexual health. During any period of decreasing estrogen, such as peri-menopause, post-partum or while taking birth control, tissue sensitivity and blood flow diminish, as does lubrication, which also affects enjoyment. Her technological answer, known as Cliovana, uses non-invasive sound-wave technology – something that’s been used in male sexual dysfunction for some time – to enhance sensitivity of the clitoris.
“It amplifies the physiologic response by improving neuro-sensitivity,” Dr. Dixon says. “In short, it amplifies the intensity of orgasm.”
The non-invasive three-step treatment costs $2,500 and isn’t covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, but many of her services are.
“Considering the whole woman throughout her reproductive years and beyond is something that’s critical and that society doesn’t do well,” she says. “Doctors see patients and identify a problem list that must be solved. That’s not the right way to do things. We want to be the best at changing the approach to women’s health care. We must do better.”
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