When Dr. Michael K. Simoni sat in the giant amphitheater inside RMA New Jersey’s Basking Ridge fertility clinic in 2019, surrounded by other young doctors like himself, he couldn’t take his eyes off the speaker on the main stage.
Standing in the middle of the podium was Dr. Jason Franasiak, RMA Marlton’s lead physician and course director of RMA’s Pathways in Reproductive Medicine training program for OB/GYN residents interested in a career in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI).
Dr. Simoni was an attending resident and Dr. Franasiak the RMA physician led the three-day training.
But Dr. Franasiak wasn’t just a doctor and course instructor – he was also a prolific scientist, having published a growing body of seminal infertility research, including a landmark study on maternal age and aneuploidy, early in his career.
“I remember seeing Jason Franasiak on stage and thinking, ‘I want to be like that guy,’” Dr. Simoni, who lives in Philadelphia, remembered. “I was just really impressed with him, the course, RMA and totally in love with the field of infertility and infertility research.”
“To me, working alongside someone like Dr. Franasiak at RMA seemed like a major achievement for any fertility doctor.”
Three years later, Dr. Simoni has reached that milestone for himself.
In September, he joins Dr. Franasiak and Dr. Emily Osman as RMA Marlton’s newest attending physician, helping patients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania start or grow their families using whatever treatment path is right for them – whether that’s Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), third party reproduction or fertility preservation.
For Dr. Simoni, it’s literally a dream come true.
“When I first met Dr. Franasiak during the Pathways course, construction crews were just breaking ground on the Marlton clinic, and now I’m joining the team there as a fertility doctor,” he said. “It’s truly amazing – everything has come full circle, and I’m so excited to be here and start seeing patients.”
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Haitian-Italian physician moved first to New York as a toddler and then Florida a young boy, and soon realized his love for science and technology. An only child to a single mother working graveyard shifts, Dr. Simoni had a lot of time – and freedom – to pursue his interests, and by the time he began undergraduate study at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in 2004, he was convinced he’d be a neurosurgeon.
“I was fascinated by research, the brain, medicine and surgery,” he said, “so it seemed like a perfect fit.”
By the time Dr. Simoni graduated from Harvard Medical School in Boston in 2014, though, his thinking had drastically changed – not only was working in the hospital full-time not what he had imagined, his mind kept coming back to the REI clinical rotation he had done, and how much it had impacted him – and brought him meaning.
“I thought long and hard about what made me happy in medical school, and it was OB/GYN and fertility care,” Dr. Simoni said. “Caring for and guiding a patient during one of the most trying – and exciting – parts of their life is truly indescribable.”
“When I imagine the reward of being a doctor, it’s being around for those highs and lows.”
The path forward was crystal clear.
In 2014, Dr. Simoni began his OB/GYN residency at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, already knowing he would be pursuing a subspeciality in fertility care.
Fast forward several years and numerous research publications later – ranging from the role of Zika virus infection on the health of the placenta, to premenstrual disorders, to the use of uterine stem cells in fertility treatment – Dr. Simoni was ready to begin thinking about applying for his REI fellowship, the last step of his formal medical training before becoming a fertility doctor.
“And that’s when I went to Pathways, met Dr. Franasiak, and knew RMA was where I wanted to be,” Dr. Simoni said.
After matching with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for his REI fellowship in 2019 – a match that was made smoother thanks to the training he received during the Pathways prep course – Dr. Simoni graduated in June 2022.
He earned not only his REI fellowship at the institution, but also his master’s degree in translational research – a foundation that will be important as Dr. Simoni joins the country’s most research-focused fertility group and continues his passion for research, especially as it deals with inflammation and the placenta during the period of embryo implantation.
“The idea that the immune system is involved in pregnancy is a relatively new concept, agreed upon in the last decade or so,” Dr. Simoni said.
“While all women who get pregnant will experience inflammation during implantation, which is in fact necessary for implantation to occur, too much inflammation could prevent implantation, and I’m interested in studying exactly how to overcome inflammation-caused implantation failure and other pregnancy issues like preeclampsia and preterm birth.”
“At RMA, I know I’m in the right place to conduct this research.”
Aside from research, Dr. Simoni is eager to start seeing patients and helping them achieve their unique fertility goals – whether that be overcoming female infertility or sperm issues, helping LGBTQ+ and trans people build their families, or guiding patients through egg or sperm donation, surrogacy services or fertility preservation.
“I’m really down to earth, and I think of myself as someone who can talk with patients about this confusing process in a way they will understand and trust, and that’s really important for the patient to stay committed to the journey and see success,” Dr. Simoni said. “I’m also passionate and experienced in female mental health in pregnancy, and believe in working with patients to process the mixed emotions of infertility.”
“Once that happens, the journey often turns into a positive one.”