Thomas Toth, M.D., ’86, an expert in reproductive endocrinology, remembers his first patient in 1991. He received a phone call from a couple in Boston about a 27-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They said, she’s going to require chemotherapy, and her future fertility may be an issue.
“I told them, ‘I think we should try to do in vitro fertilization.’ This was before there was such a thing as fertility preservation,” Toth said. “We froze her embryos and 22 years later, she has battled cancer; and now at 47, we are going to be thawing and using her embryos with the help of a gestational carrier.”
Toth has been helping patients like her achieve their dreams of starting a family throughout his extraordinary career. Director and founder of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) In Vitro Fertilization Unit and the Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility Fellowship Training Program at MGH, Toth received the School of Medicine’s 2013 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award during the 26th annual Take Wing Lecture at noon on May 23 in Theater A of the SOM.
Toth is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. He joined MGH and the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1992, immediately after completing his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MGH and a fellowship at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine. The National Institutes of Health and philanthropy have funded much of his extensive research in the field of assisted reproduction. He has been recognized by Boston Magazine as the top doctor for women in infertility and also received the 2002 UMKC School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award.
His Take Wing Lecture titled, “Oocytes on Ice: Angels, Doers, and Perils” focused on his work, the importance of collaborations with others and an overview of in vitro fertilization and other efforts to aid in fertility. Toth referred to the “angels” in his career as those who have not only made a positive impact on his work, but also on the field as a whole. Two “angels” that he mentioned are former deans Harry Jonas, M.D., and James Mongan, M.D.
“Dr. Jonas essentially introduced me to my future,” Toth said. “Without Dr. Jonas, none of this would be able to happen.”
When Mongan was president of MGH, Toth had the opportunity to work with him, and the two developed the first Institutional Review Board using a human egg for research. Toth said Jonas, Mongan, and the other people he has worked with throughout his career have taught him an important lesson.
“If you can find those people in your life who share a passion, it could be much bigger than you ever could be by yourself,” he said.
Toth reflected on what the Take Wing Award means, and again credited those at the medical school.
“Looking back 27 years later, I realize this quote by Antoine de Saint Exupéry summarizes what my feelings are, ‘the task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it.’ That’s what’s happening at my school. I’m just very proud. I’d like to thank Dr. Dimond and everyone else who make it all happen.”