Advocating for Future Moms

Anticipation filled the air as Class 5 waited patiently for their guests to arrive. Because the entire grade had been invited to this special event, the 9th floor choral room was filled to the brim. Following a brief delay, Dr. Jaime Knopman, a reproductive endocrinologist, and her colleague, Tracy Weiss, hurried in and began their lively and informative presentation.

“When I’m not being a mom, I’m a fertility doctor,” Dr. Knopman told the students, including her daughter, who smiled from a center seat.

To test their knowledge of the female reproductive system (and perhaps diminish some embarrassment the students might have felt), the speakers broke the ice with a trivia game; correct answers earned a pair of neon sunglasses.

After a few basic anatomy questions, the class discovered that a baby girl is born with one million eggs in her ovaries – all the eggs she will ever have – and that this number rapidly decreases throughout a woman’s reproductive life.

The students talked about some causes of infertility, including smoking, excessive alcohol, and eating disorders. They learned that cancer treatment is another significant factor impairing fertility – and the reason behind the pair’s visit to Chapin on this spring Friday. Dr. Knopman shared that she and Ms. Weiss are part of a trailblazing non-profit called the Chick Mission (www.thechickmission.org); she is the organization’s Chief Medical Officer, and Ms. Weiss serves as the Executive Director and Chief Creative Officer.

Dr. Knopman explained that women of child-bearing age who must undergo lifesaving chemotherapy and/or radiation risk damaging their ability to conceive and carry a baby in the future. Harvesting and freezing one’s eggs offer an important alternative for those who wish to become pregnant at some point. However, the procedure is costly (as much as $20,000 for a single cycle) and typically not covered by insurance companies. That is where Chick Mission comes in, providing “hope grants” to hundreds of women to fund the cost of egg retrieval and freezing.

“We’re here to help these women have options and to advocate for future families,” said Dr. Knopman, who is also a Lower School parent. To underwrite expenses, Chick Mission has launched various fundraising initiatives, including its popular “Race Like a Girl” campaign, which inspires supporters around the country to run (or walk) for this important cause.

In addition to awarding grants, Chick Mission also focuses on legislative action, a critical component of its mission. “Tracy lobbies Congress to make insurance companies pay for fertility preservation treatments,” Dr. Knopman noted. “She uses her voice to make change.”

Throughout the talk, the students were a curious and engaged audience, asking thoughtful questions and keeping the mood positive. The fact that each person ended up with a pair of sunglasses and a Chick Mission T-shirt only added to their enthusiasm.

Wearing their new shirts – emblazoned with the “Race Like a Girl” slogan – the students concluded this action-packed afternoon by participating in a mini-run of their own in Carl Schurz Park. After doing their part to raise awareness about fertility preservation – and having lots of fun in the process – Class 5 returned to school just in time for dismissal.