Recognizing the unmet fertility management needs of women facing fertility threats, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology took an unprecedented step and created a new clinical division, the Division of Fertility Preservation in the fall of 2006.  The mission of the Division is to increase the pace and quality of basic ovarian research and to provide fertility sparing options to young adults with a cancer diagnosis as well as other fertility threatening diseases or disease treatments. Members of the Division explore the molecular mechanisms that underlie normal follicle development, develop methods that support human follicle development and provide information, support and guidance to reproductive-age cancer survivors and other young adults to accelerate research in fertility preservation.  In achieving our mission, the Division of Fertility Preservation is meeting the needs of women within our local community and providing a template for work around the nation.

The programs within the Division of Fertility Preservation encompass cutting edge research and advanced clinical care.   The Division serves as the coordinating unit between the specialties that comprise the new discipline, created by Dr. Woodruff and coined “oncofertility.”  The participating disciplines include oncology, gynecological oncology, urology, reproductive endocrinology, pathology, biomedical engineering, molecular biology and the behavioral and social sciences including bioethics, health law, policy studies, economics and communication science.   The Division also serves as a centralized resource for information about fertility management for clinicians and cancer survivors while working closely with the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center (a designated Center of Excellence by Fertile Hope, the nation’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to fertility preservation for cancer survivors).

The Division’s goals include:

  • Encouraging research that can protect or preserve fertility for reproductive-aged cancer survivors
  • Expediting the transition from research findings to clinical practice
  • Understanding the decision-making process that cancer patient face when dealing with the potential loss of fertility
  • Serving both the professional and general communities as a resource for fertility preservation
  • Navigating reproductive age cancer survivors through the clinical options for fertility preservation

Scientific Accomplishments of the Division of Fertility Preservation 

A number of important research objectives have been reached over the past 3 years since joining the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  The results of our work provide new models of human gynecologic disease, support the dogma that the initial follicle pool is necessary and sufficient for lifelong fertility, expand our notions of follicle dynamics prior to puberty, and provide new insights into the structure-function relationships between two reproductive hormones (inhibin and activin) and their cellular targets.  Finally, we have developed an innovative approach to promoting ovarian follicle development in vitro, which provides new methods for fertility management in cancer patients. 

Clinical Services Provided by the Division of Fertility Preservation at Northwestern University.

  1. A Nationwide Resource for Fertility Preservation Options. 
  2. Fertility preservation procedures provided within the Division are part of a comprehensive approach to fertility preservation in men, women and children. 
  3. Reference Lab Services for Fertility Preservation provided to other centers within the Chicagoland area. 
  4. Multidisciplinary Education and Training Resources. 
  5. Regulatory and Management Consulting Services to NMFF Departments and Collaborators. 
  6. Minority Community Outreach.  
  7. Program Development in collaboration with CMH. 


Additional Resources at Northwestern University