Georgeanna Seegar Jones
Dr. Georgeanna Seegar Jones was a pioneer in the non-surgical treatment of infertility in women and alongside her husband Dr. Howard Jones she founded the first IVF clinic in the United States.
As a medical student she was able to show that the pregnancy hormone, chorionic gonadotropin, came from the placenta rather than the current thinking that it was from the pituitary gland. This discovery led to the over the counter early pregnancy tests that are still in use today.
In 1938, after earning her medical degree she was appointed gynecologist-in-charge at the Gynecological Endocrine Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, as well as director of the Laboratory of Reproductive Physiology. As researcher in infertility treatments she was the first to describe the luteal phase defect, which occurs when the lining of the uterus doesn’t grow properly during the menstrual cycle and could lead to conception problems.
In 1978, as per Johns Hopkins policy at the time, Georgeanna was forced to retire at age 65 and the couple decided to move to Norfolk, Virginia to help a friend start the Eastern Virginia Medical School. As they were packing up to move the announcement of the first baby born from IVF was made and a reporter came by and asked them if it would be possible to have a similar clinic in the US. Their answer was, “sure”, and after the story ran a former patient called them and offered the money to start this program and the clinic opened in March 1980.
Immediately overwhelmed with people wanting treatment the Joneses were unable to achieve success following the methods presented by the British scientists. Georgeanna decided to have the patients take strong fertility drugs to help them produce more eggs in a new style of treatment. December 1981 marked the birth of the first American baby born as a result of IVF treatment.
Two years later the Howard and Georgeanna Jones Institute for Reproductive Health was inaugurated. The Jones Institute has helped nearly 3,000 children be born and is still a pioneer in solutions to infertility.
Written by Angela Goad