For Melanie Landay, being a fertility doctor is more of a calling than a job.
“There’s just nothing else I could be doing with my life,” said Dr. Landay, who practices alongside Dr. Tom Kim at RMA Southern California in West Los Angeles.
It seems like from a young age, the universe conspired to make that calling a reality.
First, Dr. Melanie Landay’s father was a doctor and being close with him, Dr. Landay had an affinity for medicine early on. Second, she loved science and helping people, and dreamed of a career where she could do both. And third, in her 20’s, she started seeing a whole lot of someone special in her life – her gynecologist. Experiencing ovarian cysts on two occasions that required surgery, she became familiar with both the wonder and complexity of the female reproductive system and developed deep-seated respect for its mechanisms – and all the women who navigate them with grace.
And so, the Pittsburgh native enrolled in medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where, knowing she would pursue women’s health, she stayed for her residency in obstetrics and gynecology.
During her last year in residency, when fellow residents were decided on a sub-specialty, and women all around her were busy starting their families, a close childhood friend of Dr. Landay’s was having trouble starting hers. Saddled with a Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis, Dr. Landay’s friend chose to pursue In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and often came to Dr. Landay for advice and support.
“It was so obvious to me how much she and other women in her position needed not only the best doctors, but the most compassionate ones, too,” Dr. Landay remembered. “There was a big need for that.”
In an instant, she knew she would specialize in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI), and in 2010, when she completed her fellowship at the University of Southern California (USC), she was ready to realize the path she had conspired all her life to walk – even if she was a recent post-partum mother herself, juggling two kids under two.
“It was hard to leave them so soon,” Dr. Landay said, “but knowing I was going back to work to help other people have their family was the most energizing thing in the world.”
“I feel so grateful that this is the profession I’ve chosen and it is a privilege that I have the opportunity to help so many wonderful people realize their dreams of having a family.”
Shortly after graduating from her REI fellowship, Dr. Landay – who, in addition to her standard training in REI, had also conducted research into PCOS, embryo implantation, and surrogate pregnancy during residency and fellowship – decided to create the type of practice she wanted to be a part of.
She decided to partner with another female gynecologist to offer women aged 15-45 the full range of gynecological and fertility services in an intimate setting that allowed her to develop a meaningful relationship with each patient.
“It was important for me to connect with my patients on a deeper level,” Dr. Landay said, “and to give anyone desiring a family, no matter their background, a fighting chance at having one.”
At The Valley Center for Reproductive Health, where she stayed for ten years until joining Dr. Kim at RMA, Dr. Landay helped heterosexual, same-sex couples, as well as single individuals, start their families through IVF, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), egg donation, and surrogacy services.
Dr. Landay has also helped many women who are not quite ready to start a family preserve their fertility. Each time she sat down with these women, she said the same thing.
‘Egg freezing is not exactly an insurance policy, as successful pregnancy from frozen eggs is not guaranteed. However, it is the best option we have available today for women who cannot have a baby at this time. It allows women to take their reproductive health into their own hands.’
Several years ago, she added another bullet to her talking points: ‘Egg freezing can be challenging and emotional, but I believe it is worth it. I’ve done it, I know.’
When Dr. Landay was 40 years old and newly divorced, she decided to freeze her eggs. She knew 40 was late, but it was better than never.
“Like many of my patients, I didn’t know what the future would hold,” she said, “and whether I’d meet someone else and want to have more children. Even though I didn’t end up using those eggs, I would do the same thing again. It gave me peace of mind that I did everything that I could do in case I wanted that second chance. I have no regrets.”
“So now when I counsel my patients about egg freezing, I’m being honest when I say: I get it, I completely understand what you’re going through.”
Her relatability is just one reason patients love her. She’s also funny, patients say, “smart as a whip,” and deeply compassionate. And even though most of her patients don’t know it, she’s a hobbyist singer, too.
“Some of my favorite artists are Journey, Lionel Richie, The Bee Gees, Elton John, John Denver, Aerosmith, and Train,” Dr. Landay admitted. “I’m not sure I’ve ever sung for a patient while she’s awake, though I (secretly) am known for singing during retrievals!”
Dr. Landay is so beloved by patients that she’s already got a cadre of them waiting for her to make her move to RMA so they can resume treatment. And Dr. Landay is just as excited to begin this new fertility chapter with Dr. Kim and RMA.
“When I told one of my patients I was going to RMA, she said, ‘Great! They have wonderful pregnancy rates and such a good reputation,’” Dr. Landay remembered.
“Of course I couldn’t agree more. As soon as I met Tom, I felt connected to him, and I can’t wait to have access to all the RMA resources, from doctors to research, to cutting edge protocols to help even more people achieve their dreams.”