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Alta Bates In Vitro Fertilization Program (Berkeley, CA)

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Health & Medical > ObGyns > Alta Bates In Vitro Fertilization Program (Berkeley, CA)


Physicians: Richard Chetkowski, Christopher Herndon
July 2011

Re: Fertility specialists in the east bay, ambivalance
I started working with Dr. Chet when I turned 40. I had previously done a series of clomid/IUI cycles due to the low cost, but did not have much luck with that route and felt like the clomid wreaked havoc with my system. Looking back now, I wouldn't have spent so much time with that protocol, considering my age. I wish I had recognized sooner that it wasn't working for me and moved on to something else.

I did get pregnant via stimulated IUI with injectables, but unfortunately had a few early losses. Dr. Chet cared for me and did the surgeries. I trusted him completely and always felt I was in the good hands of a very experienced doctor.

My final success story was due to IVF, which I did at age 42. It was a tough decision financially and emotionally to advance to such measures, but Dr. Chet provided honest guidance about my declining odds, without pressuring me. I have great respect for him because of this.

While I agree that his demeanor is different and not touchy-feely, I sensed his caring and concern in a different ways. He scheduled my IVF procedure on the July 4th holiday which fell on a Saturday. I was surprised that he would be working that day, but he said time was of the essence.

I also felt very comfortable with his nurses and staff who were personable in the conventional ways he might not have been. They were always accommodating to my schedule and I was able to get last minute appointments easily.

As I now have the child I had wanted for so long, I definitely feel it was all worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Dr. Chet was the right doctor for me and what I needed, and he lead me to a successful outcome. I hope some of my experience can be helpful in the decisions you will be facing. Best of luck to you. -Fellow Dr. Chet patient


I only have one little one right now so I cant speak to help you decide if you should go ahead with plans for #2, but if you decide to continue fertility treatment, I would highly recommend you stick with Dr. C.

I will tell you my story and then some thoughts on the bedside manner issue. I saw Dr. C because I had plans to do IVF with PGD due to genetic issues. During my workup for the IVF, he discovered that I have a fertility issue with my uterine lining not developing adequately (in addition to my genetic concerns). He addressed this using a treatment option that had only recently been published which indicated to me that he is still concerned with being at the top of his profession rather than relying on older methods. Then, during my HSG there was a major problem with my cervix and despite 30+ mins of painful trying, the doctor performing the procedure was unable to insert the catheter to squirt the dye. He was going to give up which would mean postponing everything by a month. He offered to call Dr. C before I left the room and upon receiving the call Dr. C left his office immediately, came across the street to the hospital in the poring rain, scrubbed in and did the procedure himself. He then stayed with me when I was in so much pain I could not get off the table. No other Dr. I have ever had would have done this for me.

After 6 months of work together, my IVF was scheduled which required careful planing on his part due to the PGD component. A few weeks later, after a lot of contemplation, I changed my mind about the IVF and decided I wanted to conceive naturally. When I called the office to say I thought I was pregnant, he called me back personally to tell me the test was positive and celebrated with me even though he had also just lost a 20 thousand dollar client. He continued to monitor my pregnancy throughout the first trimester, adding progesterone when my numbers dipped, being there for me (again a personal call) when I had sudden bleeding at 7 weeks late on Friday night and performing an ultrasound the next morning just to make sure everything was still good. My point is if you want to get and stay pregnant and there are fertility or genetic issues, I can not imagine a Dr. who will be more able and more committed to this outcome and work from the heart to get you there. So, Id say, dont commute when the best doc is right near by.

Regarding the bedside manner, I did hear this about him before starting treatment and I did a couple things to address it. Overall, my goal was to change the dynamic from that of typical dr/patient to that of two colleagues working towards a common goal. I achieved this by asking highly technical questions forcing him to really get inside his brain to get to the answer at the level I was asking for. I also didn't hold anything back when it came to sharing my opinions on things that I liked, didn't like, etc. When he was direct at me, I was direct right back. He seemed to really respect this approach and this changed the way he interacted with me. For you, tell him straight up that you want to go straight to IVF and why. Stand up for what you want. He will probably respond well to that. I will see Dr. C again when its time for #2 whether its just to get my uterus ready for conception or going with the full IVF PGD. Good luck with your decision and if you chose to move forward, conception and pregnancy! A Dr. C fan


June 2011

Re: Reproductive Endocrinologist in East Bay
Hello, In response to wanting a recommendation for a reproductive endocrinologist. My husband was diagnosed with cancer and following that chemotherapy, so our whole getting pregnant experience was at the doctor (as we had to use frozen sperm). Kaiser San Francisco has a great reproductive endocrinology department. Dr. Huang was wonderful and his nurses were very helpful. We eventually did IVF through the Alta Bates program, also a wonderful experience - Dr. Chetkowski is extremely knowledgeable. I know we were in a different situation, but I believe all of these doctor's work not only with getting you pregnant, but keeping you pregnant too! CG


Feb 2011

Re: Recurrent miscarriage - resources & fertility recs
I can highly recommend that you talk with Leslie Oldershaw, a wonderful and very knowledgeable womens-reproductive health advocate who blends both Eastern & Western perspectives -- she is an accupuncturist. She has a beautiful, relaxing, and very professional practice at the top of Grand Avenue. She is also works closely with women to help them understand, research, and know their options in interacting with the world of fertility specialists. Her personal, wholistic, and caring environment made a huge difference in my experiences with challenges of getting & remaining pregnant.

If you do go the RE route, I highly recommend Dr. Ryzard Chetkowski who is a Reproductive Endocrinologist with his own practice near Alta Bates. I find, and know myself, that there can feel like a huge barrier or committment to talk with a RE. But, I highly recommend setting up an appointment to talk with someone like Dr. Chet. He is very clear-thinking and will be able to very quickly help you understand where you may fall in the realm of fertility issues and considerations. Of course, they will always be willing to move forward into helping you (i.e. starting fertility based assistance), but he would be a very clear and kind, experienced doctor, for helping you understand how your situation fits in the fertility world.

My experience is based on using Dr. Chetkowski & Leslie to conceive one healthy daughter (now 2), after dealing with an ectopic pregnancy & a number of fertility issues. I also worked with others, who were *not* good, and so have a strong basis for recommending these two. Good luck. reba


Dec 2007

Re: local fertility specialist
Dr. Chetkowski from the Alta Bates IVF program has mostly good reviews on this board, but I would give him and his staff a mixed review. I’ve done one IUI and one attempted IVF, which the office botched and then tried to save with an IUI. My IVF cycle was going very well (predictions for at least 12 eggs - likely enough to have some to freeze for another cycle if the implantation wasn’t successful), but at the end of the cycle, one of the nurses became confused and gave me a shot that was 100X what the doctor had ordered! As a result, I ovulated before the doctor expected and it was too late to retrieve the eggs. We did an IUI to try to save the cycle, but it really was too late.

Dr. Chetkowski was very, very sorry about the whole thing, and agreed to waive all charges ($10K!) and reimburse me for the drugs (another $2K!). I half-expected him to deny that the incorrect dosage came from his office, to say that my early ovulation could not have been helped, and to refuse to give me a refund; so I do appreciate his honesty.

But it should not have happened. IVF is such an intense procedure – up to 5 shots per day, daily drawing of blood for testing, daily probing of the you-know-what for ultrasounds – and often one doesn’t even get very many eggs. To have at least 12 eggs go to waste after weeks of injections was heartbreaking.

Dr. Chetkowski does seem very competent and knowledgeable to me. But he is terse, and is not forthcoming with explanations about what he’s doing. I need to understand my treatment, so I ask a lot of questions which he does not have time to answer. The nurses, though mostly helpful and supportive, sometimes seem annoyed at my questions and give me answers that I later find are incorrect.

So, a mixed review for Dr. Chetkowski and Alta Bates IVF. He has good reviews on this board, good success rates, and is conveniently located in Berkeley. But he rarely takes the time to explain what’s going on, and his staff is not knowledgeable enough to fill in the gaps. And, the office made a major, major mistake in my treatment. anon


August 2003

We've been trying for our second child for some time now, and were just referred to either Dr. Willman or Dr. Chetkowski. I've checked the recommendations on the website, but since the most recent were in 2001, I was hoping to get more current information. Any recommendations for either, positive or negative experiences, would be greatly appreciated.


We were very happy with Dr. Chetkowski. At first we were put off by his gruff bedside manner, but he softened as time went on and even showed a sense of humor. He was very professional, as was everyone in his office. anon
I went through 18 months of treatment with Dr. Chetkowski. He is extremely capable, did a flawless job on my laproscopy and has the warmest support staff. My only complaints are that visits seemed perfunctory, and he seemed reluctant to take a very aggressive approach to getting me pregnant. At the time I was only 30 and my dx unexplained, I think he just assumed it would be a snap. It took 5 IUIs and a failed IVF before he kicked it into high gear. I would read all of the advice here, and then meet with each Doctor to discuss how they would approach your particular situation. Best of luck, I hope number two shows up soon. Susannah
We just used Dr. Chetkowski with great success - I am now pregnant after trying for 1 1/2 years. We went to him on the recommendation of my OBGYN but he comes recommended by Resolve (non-profit in SF focused on infertility and adoption issues) and I noticed he was recognized as an outstanding doctor in a journal that he has posted in his office. My OBGYN forewarned me that Dr. C is a scientist, not too into bedside manner. I found this to be true and am very grateful for all he did for me. I definitely recommend him. debbie
We used Dr. Chetkowski to conceive our daughter and, after a really bad experience with another Bay Area clinic, had success with Alta Bates IVF clinic. Personally, I found Dr. C. kind of abrasive and not very likeable but his staff was wonderful and made all the difference. When making appointments or with general questions, we always had a quick and warm response with the nurses and billing staff. Overall, I would recommend the clinic. If you need a hand-holding type doctor, you won't find it in Dr. Chetkowski but you will get a skilled physician who has many years experience. - anon
Dr.Chetkowski! What can I say? I've done IVF with Dr. Chetkowski, 2 times total and have 2 children. His staff is wonderful;kind, discrete and caring and you'll see them alot! To me, Dr. C doesn't mess around. He's warm and senistive but straight to the point, which I liked. He didn't give false hope, but was hopefull. I feel very blessed to have had him highly recommended to me! I was told I would never have children! mom of two, thanks to Dr. Chetkowski

I went to both years ago when Wilman was a resident training with Chetkowski. He has much more experience--probably 15+ years more. There's no question in my book--he's a master--very innovative and experienced and treats the individual, not by protocal. Theresa
Don't be dissuaded by Dr. Chetkowski's business-like manner. He is really a kind, caring person who in his own personal life experienced the pain and anxiety of having to try very hard to have a child. That being said he is a very competent fertility doctor. I was treated by him for three years and have a wonderful son as a result. Our case was particularly heartbreaking in that I became pregant not too long after beginning treatment, but that pregancy was terminated for reasons I will not go into. Dr. Chetkowski and his staff were heartbroken, too. The usual protocol (no more than x number of tries before we tell you to give up...) fell to the wayside after that and the Dr. went way beyond the usual to help us have our wonderful son. I vote for Dr. Chetkowski! A grateful mommy.
I liked Dr. Chetkowski very much. He is very knowledgeable about the reproductive process, explains the tests you will need in detail, and is completely non-judgmental. (I was single and wanted a baby-he didn't care one bit, probably cuz I had money but still). His office staff is wonderful, and the whole place is very results oriented. I remember checking my ovulation at work and discovering that I was in fact ovulating. I called the office, they said come on down right away, confirmed with the US that I was indeed ovulating, and had me inseminated in an hour. As luck would have it, I conceived the ''old fashioned'' way, but I would recommend Dr. Chetkowski. anon
2001

RE: Dr. Chetkowski, Director of the Alta Bates IVF Program

When we first met Dr. Chetkowski and his staff, after over than a year of trying to get pregnant, we immediately realized that we are on the right track. After six months of treatment, including IUI and hormone injections, we got pregnant. During these six months we got to recognize the remarkable professionalism of Dr. Chetkowski and his consistent ability to choose the optimal steps, which eventually led us to a successful pregnancy. Rarely one meets such a combination of professional skill, determination, and tenderness, as what we have found in Dr. Chetkowski. We will be forever grateful to Dr. Chetkowski for his achievement. Last but not least, we would like to mention the extraordinary attitude and support we received from Dr. Chetkowski's staff.


I missed the request for info on this program, but I wanted to enthusiastically second the recommendation I just read. I have two children as a result of my treatment in this program. Dr. Chetkowski is handsdown the best. He's been at it forever and experience definitely counts. He has a top notch lab (and embryologist) which is one of the most important components. His staff is great, too. You will get to know the nurses and the office manager personally. They monitor you closely and adjust treatment as needed. (This is very different from some of the factorystyle clinics.) Dr. Chetkowski is perhaps a little stiff on the surface, but I found him to be genuine and warm not too far underneath. He answers all questions at the level you desire, and even helped me think about difficult issues such as whether to freeze embryos or wait to choose the best for transfer. Good Luck! Becky
On the July 25 recommendations newsletter, a note about Dr. Chetkowski was mentioned. As a result, I feel compelled to relay our experience. My husband and I found him to be extremely cold and uncaring. Additionally, he originally confused us with another patient. When he then realized we were at the beginning of the process, and were not even certain if this or adoption would be our route, he changed direction and we felt very uncomfortable with his manner of tsellv, as we truly did feel as though he was trying very hard to sell his program and meet his tgoalv for the month. We followed our intuition and did not go forward with treatment by him.
I cannot recommend Dr. Chetkowski enough. I found him to be ultrasensitive to me during a very difficult time. Dr. Chetkowski is thoroughly professional and has the highest standards of science, ethics, and care for his patients.
July 1999

We went to Dr. Chetkowski at the Alta Bates Fertility Clinic in Berkeley and I can't say enough about how wonderful I think he and the entire staff are. Dr. Chetkowski is an excellent fertility doctor and his staff is warm, caring, supportive and nurturing. We tried artificial insemination a number of times without success and then got pregnant on our first try with IVF. I would recommend them highly even if we had not ever gotten pregnant.


(Aug 1998)

I went through successful in vitro fertilization at Alta Bates fertility clinic under Dr. Chetkowski. He runs the show. I never saw anyone but the Dr. and his two nurses. They were wonderful! I have twins to show for it from one round of treatment.


(Aug 1998)

I highly recommend Dr. Chetkowski for consultation or treatment 649-0440. He has a poor reputation for bedside manner but he is a clinical master. My feeling is that your group comes late to infertility issues, while he has made a career of it.


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