The St. John Paul the Great Fellows for 2017

The St. John Paul the Great in Medical & Surgical NaProTechnology is integral to bringing the culture of life to women’s health care. Fellows are trained in the specialized field of reproductive endocrinology and in the breakthrough surgical system that utilizes robotic technology and highly effective adhesion prevention measures. The St. John Paul the Great Fellows become equipped with the skills to improve the health of women and restore fertility naturally — all while practicing medicine that fully adheres to the Church’s teaching on human reproduction. The St. John Paul the Great Fellows are the future of NaProTechnology, and we are happy to introduce the 2016–2017 Fellows, Neil Sink, MD and Teresa Hilgers, MD.

Dr. Neil Sink

Dr. Neil Sink

Dr. Sink initially began a career in general surgery, but the calling to become an OB-GYN took root after attending a baby’s birth by cesarean section. After one and a half years in general surgery, Dr. Sink decided to visit the Institute after a discussion with his mom about his desire to switch to obstetrics and gynecology. “Although I was only there for a day,” he sais, “it was so inspiring to see good medical care being offered while also being true to one’s beliefs about life and faith. I decided to switch jobs essentially in the Pope Paul VI Institute parking lot.”

Coming to the Institute after completing his OB-GYN residency at the Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Sink has learned how to perform complex pelvic surgeries through the Fellowship. “There is something enormously satisfying about putting in the effort to remove disease while maintaining and healing the pelvic organs as best as possible.” Dr. Sink is grateful for the opportunity, challenge, and gift to care for people.

Dr. Sink and his wife, Anne Marie, have two daughters — Moira (3) and Alice (4 months). After completing his Fellowship, Dr. Sink plans to provide quality medical care to patients of all walks of life from a practice that is infused with the Spirit and adheres to its faith.

Dr. Teresa Hilgers

Dr. Teresa Hilgers

Dr. Teresa Hilgers is the daughter of Dr. Thomas and Sue Hilgers, co-developers of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. Dr. Hilgers began to pursue her studies in history and never planned on being a physician. “It was annoying to hear everyone ask, ‘Are you going to be a doctor like your father?’” she recalls. However, she then decided to answer her calling to become a doctor, and after looking at other specialties, she fell in love with obstetrics and gynecology.

Coming to the Fellowship after completing her residency at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Hilgers has enjoyed working with her dad and looking at Creighton Model charts.

“I am often amazed that you can open up the chart and have a good idea of what is happening to the woman before even meeting her,” she said. Dr. Hilgers also enjoys teaching clients how to chart with the Creighton Model. After her completion of the Fellowship, Dr. Hilgers plans to stay at the Institute and play a role in the education of our patients, practitioners, and other doctors about the Creighton Model System and NaProTechnology.

Bringing “hope and healing” to Mexico

Alejandra Martinez Goldaracena, OB-GYN in Mexico City

Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, director of the The Pope Paul VI Institute, has had a great deal of interest in Mexico since the 1980s, and he was responsible for leading the first translation team to work on translating the Creighton Model materials into Spanish.

However, it has been within the last five years that our work has gained momentum, with the establishment of FertilityCare Centers in Mexico, as well as physicians who provide NaProTechnology services. The Institute has developed a five-year plan to establish the infrastructure for this work in Mexico, and this includes our formal affiliation with the Universidad Panamericana School of Medicine.

In 2017, we started our third Education Program in Mexico, training 27 new students at the Casa Lago conference center in Mexico City.

One of the newest recruits to the cause of NaProTechnology is Alejandra Martinez Goldaracena, an OB-GYN in Mexico City. She had never heard of the Creighton Model until Nov. 2016, when she was introduced to the work of the Pope Paul VI Institute by Dr. Gregorio Obrador, Dean of the Medical School at the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. Dr. Obrador has been working with the Pope Paul VI Institute to bring NaProTechnology into Latin America.

Now, Alejandra has had a crash course in the Institute’s work.

Dr. Victor Topete, an OB-GYN medical consultant in Puebla, Mexico, invited Alejandra to participate in EPI in Mexico City in March. Alejandra went on immediately to complete EPII in Omaha in April.

Alejandra (right) listens to a lecture by Dr. Hilgers on Advanced Case Management during Education Phase II in Omaha in April, 2017.

“It’s the time,” Alejandra says. “I wish more Mexican people would know about the Creighton Model and NaProTechnology … Mexico needs NaProTechnology.”

This mission is also very personal for Alejandra. A close relative had suffered from infertility problems five years earlier and turned to artificial reproductive technology as a solution. “If I had only known about this,” said Alejandra. “My wish is to tell people that there’s another option — a better option.”

Part of Alejandra’s “crash course” with the Institute was not just learning about the Creighton Model and NaProTechnology, but also learning English, which she was not fluent in at all when she started just a few months ago. Alejandra has discovered since then, however, that the Creighton Model itself is a language all its own, which transcends either English or Spanish.

“The Creighton Model System is more than cultures,” she says, “More than countries. The language is not the problem … I understand that it is a universal language.”

As of today, teaching materials for the Pope Paul VI Institute have been translated into 15 different languages, including Spanish.

With more Education Programs scheduled in Mexico City through 2018, hope and healing will continue to flourish in Central America and around the world.

Remembering Mother Teresa

On September 4, 2017, the Catholic Church paid homage to an extraordinary woman whose life exemplified Christ’s call to compassion and service to others when Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) is canonized. She joined another modern apostle of mercy — St. John Paul the Great — to be canonized in recent years.

It is quite rare for the Church to declare sainthood in such a short period after one’s death, but as many of us know, these two saints were rare themselves, both in their faith and their ability to discern the signs of the times. In his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI reminded us that the Church is a “sign of contradiction” to a society that seeks answers in technological, medical and other “advancements,” some of which oppose natural and moral law.

In an age when these advancements grew at unprecedented rates, both St. John Paul the Great and the soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta were clear voices for those marginalized as a result of these advancements.

In 1978, I had the pleasure of meeting Mother Teresa. Years later, in 1993, Mother Teresa accepted our invitation to speak at the Institute’s 25th anniversary celebration of the publication of Humanae Vitae. While health reasons prevented Mother Teresa from attending the celebration, she addressed the crowd by video (the entirety of which you can access at the Pope Paul VI Institute website.

As was the case when Pope John Paul II was canonized, the Institute feels blessed knowing that yet again another of its strong supporters is being declared a saint. As I have shared so many times before, in our work, we meet great opposition from mainstream medicine and a culture of death that seeks to expand abortion, contraception, sterilization and in-vitro fertilization without limits. The upcoming canonization provides both encouragement and further validation for our work. Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Pope Paul VI Institute seeks to serve as a sign of contradiction.

To be clear, at the Institute we don’t operate to simply oppose mainstream medicine. Instead, we seek to build a culture of life, where women and families find healing within God’s design for human reproduction and sexuality.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said “We must remember that life begins at home and we must also remember that the future of humanity passes through the family.”

As the Pope Paul VI Institute continues to build a culture of life in women’s reproductive health care, we thank you, our supporters, for standing as a sign of contradiction with us.

NaProTechnology Building a Culture of Life through “Good Medicine”

Fr. Piotr Kieniewicz

Fr. Piotr Kieniewicz

The mission at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction is to build a culture of life in women’s reproductive health care. While this mission is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, its focus extends well beyond Omaha, and well beyond even the United States. In fact, the Institute’s methods and research are being practiced in communities throughout the world. This is especially true in Poland, where the Pope Paul VI Institute held Education Programs in 2012 and 2013.

For Father Piotr Kieniewicz, a priest at the Basilica of Our Lady of  Lichen in Konin, Poland, NaProTechnology and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System are providing hope and healing to a growing number of Polish families.

“Poland is a unique country in Europe,” says Father Piotr. “While abortion and contraception are certainly being practiced here, there is a growing feeling that we need to protect life.

Father Piotr, who was ordained in 1993, has a unique perspective in the area of human reproduction and sexual ethics as he holds a Ph.D. in Bioethics and has also received training in NaProTechnology. With this background, he was asked to manage a center providing Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTechnology services on the campus of the Basilica. The center has seen tremendous growth since it opened, and it is currently staffed by four part-time medical consultants, each of whom has a full slate of patients.

“Dr. Hilgers says good ethics brings you to good medicine, and this has become my motto,” says Father Piotr. “NaProTechnology is good medicine.”

While Father Piotr is optimistic that adoption of NaProTechnology and the Creighton Model will continue to spread throughout Poland, he does see some challenges. “Poland still does not have proper surgical equipment for NaProTechnology, and the state-owned hospitals ultimately decide what is needed and what is not,” he says. “But if it is God’s will, He will provide.”

Even more than Poland, however, Father Piotr wants to see NaProTechnology used throughout all of Europe. “We have a lot of work to do,” he says, “but we get a lot of help from Dr. Hilgers and the Pope Paul VI Institute. We are committed to helping build a culture of life here and to provide good medicine.”

 

Dr. Angelica Brings Healing and Hope to Paraguay

Dr. Angelica Maria Sarmiento

Dr. Angelica Maria Sarmiento

The Pope Paul VI Institute provides medical professionals throughout the world with training and support to help extend the Institute’s medical breakthroughs to women and families across six continents. The Institute’s primary source of education and training is its Education Program, which consists of two full weeks of training held annually in the fall and spring.

In Oct. 2015, one of the many medical professionals to begin the Institute’s Education Program was Dr. Angelica Maria Sarmiento, an obstetrician from the South American country of Paraguay. Dr. Angelica first heard about the Pope Paul VI Institute after being contacted by a local reporter who was writing a news story about NaProTechnology.

“I declined the request for the interview because I hadn’t even heard about NaProTechnology at the time,” says Dr. Angelica. Having a strong background in both gynecology and bioethics, however, Dr. Angelica’s interest in NaProTechnology was piqued. It was not until after two other chance encounters and some additional research that Dr. Angelica made the decision to pursue training at the Pope Paul VI Institute’s Education Program, regardless of the time, travel, or cost.

“When you are trying to follow God’s will, He will pave the way,” Dr. Angelica assured herself and enrolled in the Institute’s medical consultant program. But the “road” did include its bumps.

“Here I was sitting in my first class in Omaha, and I came to the realization that I was in the wrong track. If I wanted to practice NaProTechnology, I would need to go through the Practitioner track.”
After some prayer and contemplation, Dr. Angelica made the decision to enroll in the Education Program Practitioner track as well.

“I felt that God was asking me to take another leap of faith,” she said. In April, Dr. Angelica completed Educational Phase II in Omaha in order to provide services to women and couples in her hometown of Asunción, Paraguay, where she is currently operating a growing NaProTechnology practice.

Not unlike so many Education Program students, Dr. Angelica sought reproductive health methods that are ethical and address the root cause of patients’ reproductive health problems. Through NaProTechnology, she is able to serve her patients’ medical needs while “living out her faith in a very real way.”
“Dr. Hilgers’ research is so new,” she says of the Institute’s founder. “Nobody has said the things Dr. Hilgers has, yet his research is also very clear and logical. If something is true in the spiritual realm, it must also be true in the physical and ethical realm as well.”

 

A Family at the Institute

Maureen and Edith Karpf

Maureen and Edith Karpf

I thank God every day for the Pope Paul VI Institute. Edith Lorraine Karpf was born into this world on April 1, 2015. She has been with me, in my arms, every day for the past year, even while I do my job as Development Associate at The Pope Paul VI Institute.

The reason we have been able to spend this precious time together is because of Dr. Hilgers’ office baby policy. Since the very beginning of the Pope Paul VI Institute, Dr. Hilgers has allowed employees of the Institute to bring their babies to work with them for the first 12 months, if the job allows.

While Dr. Hilgers requires a high quality of work performance from his employees, he understands the needs of the family and the importance of nurturing the bond between mother and child. This is a testament to Dr. Hilgers’ dedication to building strong families!

The Institute is a very special place because of the important work being done to make the pro-life reproductive health care found in the Creighton Model System and NaProTechnology widely accessible. There is no way I could adequately convey how truly incredible it is to be an Institute employee! The Institute is definitely not just a place of employment — it’s a family.

 

Jean and Vern Packard Share Talents and Faith at the Institute

Jean Packard and her husband Vern.

Jean Packard and her husband Vern.

There are several of the Pope Paul VI Institute’s employees who have served the Institute for many years, and this is especially true for Jean and Vern Packard. While Jean’s tenure at the Institute dates back to its founding in 1985, she has worked with Pope Paul VI Institute founder, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, since 1978 when she was hired by Hilgers to fill a grant-funded position.

“I was working at Creighton at the time, and when the opportunity to work with Dr. Hilgers became available, I knew I just had to work for this man who had this fire in his eyes when he spoke about his research,” Packard recounts of her decision to take the position.

It was seven years later when Packard followed Dr. Hilgers to the newly-founded Pope Paul VI Institute, which occupied the second and third floors of the newly-built structure at 6901 Mercy Road. At that time, she completed the one-year FertilityCare Practitioner Program.

Over the next 30 years, the Institute would eventually take over the entire three-story building, and Packard would perform a number of roles, primarily as Personal Administrator to Dr. Hilgers for 25 years. She also served as editor of the 2004 publication of the Institute, “In Their Own Words: Women Healed.”

In addition to this, Packard also developed newsletters and brochures, and for 10 years, she coordinated the Institute’s affiliate organization, FertilityCare Centers of America (FCCA).

“It’s been amazing working for Dr. Hilgers. He has been so supportive of me and my development as a professional,” Packard says of her time working with Hilgers. “With his encouragement, I served on the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals board of directors, including a one-year term as president. I grew from someone who dreaded public speaking to regularly speaking to groups of physicians and teachers.”

In addition to the many professional accomplishments Packard experienced as an Institute employee, it is her return to the Catholic faith that is among the most meaningful effects of her tenure.

“The witness of the staff here and of Dr. Hilgers had a tremendous impact on me,” Packard says.

This impact is not limited to Jean, but also her husband, Vern, who has served as a volunteer at the Institute for many years. Together, the two of them have become good friends with the Hilgers, with Dr. Hilgers serving as Vern’s confirmation sponsor. “It is spiritually gratifying to see just how committed the Hilgers are to their work here,” Vern says. “This includes Tom, Sue, and their children.”

His wife, Jean, echoes these sentiments. “Dr. Hilgers has shown us to stick by our faith, regardless of the veracity of the attacks,” Jean shares. “He never wavers from his beliefs and this is imparted to patients, staff, Creighton Model and NaProTechnology providers and all those he encounters. It’s been such an honor and blessing to be involved in this groundbreaking health care which helps build strong marriages and healthy families.”

Meet the St. John Paul II Fellows for 2015–2016

2015-16_Fellows

The St. John Paul II Fellows for 2015–2016 (left to right): Dr. Melissa Taavola, Dr. Kathleen McGlynn, and Dr. Alexis Simon.

Every year, thanks to your support, the St. John Paul the Great Fellowship Program trains post-graduate OB-GYN physicians from around the country in NaProTechnology. Our three outstanding 2015–2016 Fellows are, from left to right:

  • Dr. Melissa Taavola from Hartland, Wisconsin. She enjoys hiking, travel, mission work in Haiti, the University of Wisconsin Badgers, and the Green Bay Packers. “Women deserve the best possible care for their reproductive health by diagnosing and treating the underlying problem.”
  • Dr. Kathleen McGlynn from Tallahassee, Florida. She enjoys running, sports, music, and skies. “I came to the Institute with the hope of expanding my knowledge and skills to be able to take care of women in the best way I possibly can.”
  • Dr. Alexis Simon from Maryville, Missouri. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Don, and two awesome children, Chase and Adalynn. “I am so excited to be spending a year at the NaPro mecca of the world!”

To learn more about the St. John Paul the Great Fellowship in Medical & Surgical NaProTechnology, please visit popepaulvi.com/fellowship.

Institute publishes largest study of its kind

The Pope Paul VI Institute publishes largest study of its kind on the safety of progesterone use in pregnancy

prog-molecule

A progesterone molecule.

In the December 2015 issue of Issues in Law & Medicine, the Pope Paul VI Institute published the largest research study of its kind on fetal safety with the use of progesterone in pregnancy. The authors of this study were Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, the Director of the Pope Paul VI Institute, and Associate Medical Consultants Catherine E. Keefe, MD and Kristina A. Pakiz, MD.

This study covered a total of 1,310 pregnancies that had been supported by bioidentical, or naturally-occurring, progesterone and the outcome of those pregnancies based on any problems that may have occurred in the babies (from 1979 – 2014). The results were compared to a second group of 453 pregnancies that did not receive progesterone during the course of their pregnancies. The group receiving progesterone was considered to be at a higher risk for problems than the control group primarily because of the large number of patients who had reproductive abnormalities in that particular group. The overall incidence of fetal anomalies observed in patients who took progesterone and those who did not take progesterone was identical: 2.2%. While there have been other studies on the fetal safety of progesterone, this study’s sample size was 2.5 times larger than any previous study of its kind.

The study concluded that bio-identical progesterone posed no risk of teratogenicity or malformations when used to support pregnancy, either in the early or later days of gestation.

Between 150–200 pregnancies are managed each month at the Pope Paul VI Institute with progesterone support.

Meet the St. John Paul II Fellows for 2015–2016

The St. John Paul II Fellows for 2015–2016 (left to right): Dr. Melissa Taavola, Dr. Kathleen McGlynn, and Dr. Alexis Simon.

The St. John Paul II Fellows for 2015–2016 (left to right): Dr. Melissa Taavola, Dr. Kathleen McGlynn, and Dr. Alexis Simon.

Every year, thanks to your support, the St. John Paul the Great Fellowship Program trains post-graduate OB-GYN physicians from around the country in NaProTechnology. Our three outstanding 2015–2016 Fellows are, from left to right:

  • Dr. Melissa Taavola from Hartland, Wisconsin. She enjoys hiking, travel, mission work in Haiti, the University of Wisconsin Badgers, and the Green Bay Packers. “Women deserve the best possible care for their reproductive health by diagnosing and treating the underlying problem.”
  • Dr. Kathleen McGlynn from Tallahassee, Florida. She enjoys running, sports, music, and skies. “I came to the Institute with the hope of expanding my knowledge and skills to be able to take care of women in the best way I possibly can.”
  • Dr. Alexis Simon from Maryville, Missouri. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Don, and two awesome children, Chase and Adalynn. “I am so excited to be spending a year at the NaPro mecca of the world!”

To learn more about the St. John Paul the Great Fellowship in Medical & Surgical NaProTechnology, please visit popepaulvi.com/fellowship.

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