Making Mapping Matter

She approached the microphone slowly from the back of the room, appearing to float, wrapped in her colorful hijab. A doctor from Pakistan, she had some questions and a comment after hearing my talk.

A Kind Interrogation

“Your Sperm Mapping technique for azoospermic men” she stated softly, “is it done under just local anesthesia?” “Yes,” I responded.
“And it takes less than an hour to do?” “Yes,” I responded.
“It only requires needles and syringes to perform? “Yes,” I responded.
“And you have normally trained pathologists look for sperm on the slides?” “Yes,” I responded.
She paused, and with a wisp of a smile, said, “This is perfect for our country and for the developing world.”

Right Side Up

What a concept! Makes sense that the relatively simple, unadorned, low-tech approach that Sperm Mapping uses would be well suited for many places around the globe, places where invasive, sperm retrieval procedures requiring operating room microscopes and general anesthesia just aren’t possible.
To date, I have always thought of Mapping as a high-tech solution to a new age problem. However, it is really a low-tech solution to an age-old problem. Turned my perspective downright upside down.
I thanked her for her great insight. And, that delightfully simple observation on my life’s work has since stuck with me. In fact, it’s led me to ask some pretty important questions, like “How can I bring this simple technique to the far corners of the world and help others help themselves?”

Making a Bigger Difference

Similar to my deep involvement with Clinic by the Bay, a free clinic for the working poor in San Francisco, this chord has reverberated within me before. Going back further, as a sleepless resident in urology at the University of Pennsylvania, I started a nonprofit called Waterwerks. Its mission was to bring donated surgical equipment to underdeveloped nations, offer it to them and also teach them how to use it. I was unable to generate enough interest and funding to keep it afloat, but I have always loved the idea of empowering others, of teaching them to fish rather than simply offering them fish.
And now again, the chord sounds with another opportunity. And this time, it involves something that is not only very near and dear to me, but that also falls right smack in the middle of my wheelhouse. Who better than me to bring Sperm Mapping to the world at large? It’s amazing what a little perspective can do for the soul. In the words of Irving Berlin: “Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it.”