Halebury Female Founders blog series celebrating International Women’s Day: Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director, Founder & CEO of CREATE Fertility and Founder & CEO of Create Health Foundation
In honour of International Women’s Day, Chairwoman and Founder of Halebury Janvi Patel interviews female entrepreneurs she has met and been inspired by in her journey as a successful female entrepreneur. In this piece, Janvi interviews Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director, Founder and CEO of CREATE Fertility and Founder and CEO of Create Health Foundation: www.createhealth.org
When did you launch CREATE Fertility?
We opened our first clinic back in 2000. We then launched our Wimbledon clinic in 2005. Most recently, we launched our flagship European Centre of Excellence in St Paul’s and also have two satellite IVF clinics in Harley Street, Bristol.
Alongside our UK fertility clinics we are also able to offer treatment to Irish patients with a partner clinic.
What does CREATE Fertility do?
In a nutshell CREATE Fertility is an IVF clinic with a difference. It provides patients with an alternative to the intense long drug regimen of ‘conventional’ IVF, which in my view is outdated, expensive, and can have health risks for women.
I published the first scientific paper on cumulative live births with Natural IVF and have been part of the pioneering team in advanced ultrasound and modified natural and mild IVF. These forms of IVF work with a woman’s natural cycle and are a much healthier approach. The reduction of drugs also means that treatment is significantly cheaper.
CREATE Fertility was the first clinic in the UK and still is the only clinic to offer a dedicated, expert, gentler, safer, successful and cheaper form of Natural and Mild IVF as the first option for
How has the business grown? Has this been in line with expectations?
My focus has always been less on the bottom line and more on how we can provide ethical IVF and increase accessibility to natural and mild IVF. We have therefore focused efforts on growing our UK network to achieve as wide a reach as possible.
The launch of our flagship centre in the heart of St Paul’s last year was a significant milestone for the clinic and for the IVF industry as a whole. The centre has the capacity to handle around 4000 cycles a year, which potentially makes it Europe’s largest fertility clinic and transforms London’s IVF capacity as a whole.
What does your ‘standard’ working day consist of?
There is no such thing as standard working hours for me! I have several roles every day from being a mother, wife, doctor, business leader to being a voluntary worker.
I work as a part-time Senior Consultant Gynecologist and Lead Consultant for Reproductive Medicine services at St George’s Hospital, London, so my time is split between the NHS, Create Fertility and a number of charities. I spend a few hours a week on the Create Fertility Foundation, a women’s reproductive health charity I founded in 2000 and The Walking Egg Foundation, an international charity that aims to make high quality fertility care accessible in developing countries.
What, or who, has been your biggest inspiration?
My mother is my biggest inspiration. She was very progressive in her thoughts and inspired me. She was neither a successful businesswoman nor a doctor but a great mother. She could not achieve her potential and I want to do it for her.
With regards to work in making IVF safer for women, it is a mission for me. When I was working as a junior doctor, I became aware of the death of a young woman who died from IVF related Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). It struck me as so painfully unfair that anyone should die from attempting something as fundamental as pregnancy that I made it my mission from that day on to find a safe alternative for women who couldn’t conceive naturally. Witnessing a tragic outcome for that patient so early on in my career was a significant inspiration.
We should not take away life when we are trying to create life.
Men do not suffer side- effects and risks in fertility treatment and why should women suffer if we can avoid them? It is a “gender equality” issue. All my work is aimed at promoting women’s education, health and equality in one or other way.
What role does technology play in your life? What couldn’t you be without?
Like most people my Blackberry is a constant and essential companion!
If you could go back in time and tell your former self-lessons you have since learned that could save time/angst/money in your entrepreneurial career, what would the first lesson be?
Don’t give up. Stick to your principles.
Surround yourself with the greatest and the best.
Demand as much from others as you expect from yourself.
What was the biggest challenge when you started CREATE Fertility?
I founded a drug-free and minimal drug fertility business in a male-dominated industry largely influenced by drug companies and at a time when most IVF units relied on high dose drugs and complex, expensive processes. Taking on the industry, proving that natural and mild IVF could be a successful and viable alternative was a major challenge.
What change/support would you like to see introduced to encourage female entrepreneurs?
We urgently need a fertility education programme at school level for girls. Women need be educated as to what their fertility options might be, how the latest innovations such as egg-freezing can allow them to plan both a career and a family and the issues they will need to consider in balancing their professional and personal life. There is such little education and awareness around fertility. For women to thrive, we must help their agenda to have both a successful career and family.