I Am Living Proof Of The American Dream: With Dr. Janelle Luk, Founder of Generation Next Fertility Center
I am optimistic about the US’s future because I see people uniting and coming together as human beings, being more compassionate to one another and themselves, and having a more open mind. People are collaborating and uniting for causes they believe in, people are loving and supporting their neighbors and friends, and finding ways to be compassionate with themselves, even though the world can we very unforgiving and scary sometimes, and we are learning to find safety in our community. I believe in the power of teamwork and there is so much to be optimistic about right now. Examples of this I’ve seen include the Women’s March, Infertility Awareness Week — even jobs offering fertility benefits, and maternity/paternity leave.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Janelle Luk. Dr. Luk is one of the top board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologists in New York, founded Generation Next Fertility Center. She is opening up new doors in the world of IVF specializes in creating individualized fertility treatments based on each patient’s needs. Dr. Luk brings to Generation Next Fertility her experience at two prestigious NYC fertility practices including a previous role as Medical Director which puts her in a unique position to cater to women of all ages and offer them the best available treatments. She is able to use her vast expertise in both traditional (conventional IVF) and alternative IVF treatments including natural IVF and mild stimulation IVF in order to meet each individual’s needs. In addition, Dr. Luk remains active in research within the Reproductive Endocrinology field. She has published numerous reviews and research articles over her years of practice and has presented her research both nationally and internationally in China and Hong Kong. Dr. Luk’s areas of expertise include diminished ovarian reserve, infertility of unknown etiology, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and recurrent pregnancy loss.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I think if you were to ask me how I grew up and my answer had to be 3 words or less I would go with “ grateful and inspired.” My upbringing was more a state of being; I did many wonderful things but i don’t remember them as well as I remember how i felt about being able to do the things themselves. It was my mother who brought me to America and she who had a dream for me to succeed here and I am thankful for this every day.
I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated with my mother from Hong Kong to the United States at the age of 11. At this age I was old enough to be shaped by my life experiences in Hong Kong yet I was young enough to still be influenced by my upbringing in America. This combination of Eastern and Western upbringing defines me, not one more than the other, and I contribute a lot of my strengths to this merger of two worlds and ways of thinking.
I worked very hard and remained disciplined as I worked my way through my teenage years. After high school I attended Cornell for my undergraduate studies, Yale for my medical school and went to Boston Brigham and Women’s Hospital Residency Program for my women’s health training. During this time, I continue to educate Harvard medical students on women’s health issues. I also started a student organization for integrative medicine and women’s health.
I did know though at age 11 that no matter the language I said it in, I had a message that inside of me that I had to get out into the world, so learning — particularly learning about how to communicate effectively to patients -was important to me. Because of the immigration process, I was equipped with a multi-dimensional perspective on my surroundings due to my immigration and assimilation experience and I was proud of it growing up and i am humbled and honored by it today.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell a story?
Yes! In truth I think the trigger was fired before I was born, and it happened in my mother when she was just a child in Hong Kong. At a very young age she was given away by her parents because she was a female. As she grows up, the boys of the family get all the opportunity in the world. my mother feels that the culture is never going to let her or her children to break through the system. She saw the USA as the land of opportunity and she was determined to provide her children with all the resources she didn’t get.
Because of this traumatic childhood and her belief in the American Dream, despite all the hardships, she brought me to America believing that I would get all the opportunities that she never received. I think it is really hard to keep your head up after you are given away because of something you are born as like being female; you aren’t sure about your worth and you feel lost and ashamed. She never faltered though, seizing every chance she was presented and remaining focused on a brighter future filled with self respect, self awareness, education, and unconditional love.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
It was difficult because it was a totally unfamiliar environment and my family and myself have to get assimilate to the surrounding in order to survive day to day activity. The culture, language, and the education system are all very different. However, those difficult times affected me greatly and allowed me to gain skills I might not otherwise have, such as my ability to look at an issue from different perspectives. This dynamic vision is an imperative of being a good doctor — being able to feel and see from another person’s point of view (specifically the patient’s).
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My uncle and aunt whom provided a place for us to stay temporarily after we moved to America. They showed us American life in the suburbs!
So how are things going today?
Wonderful! My clinic has success rates that are at an all time high and patient reviews confirm we are achieving our mission of providing a higher quality of care to our patients.
However, in the coming year, I really want to do what I have always wanted to do, which is to empower women through the service that we are providing and to ensure the medical care embodies this element.. Also we are going to be including more social engagement opportunities with our patients and between patients.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am humbled to help women create families and to provide hope for them.
I have a passion for teaching and informing others; as a Reproductive Endocrinologist I educate and empower my patients each and every day about the female reproductive system and how to be empowered by it and not be a victim of it. When I was born, I was taught that a female body is less superior than a man’ body; we have to suffer from a menstrual cycle and our biological clock stops earlier than a mans, so I was taught are weak in comparison. corrected by egg freezing and technology. If life is priceless, women’s bodies is the most amazing entity in the world because that’s what we can do — create life! Women have cramps which can changed with dieting and lifestyle. Your biological clock can now be conquered by technology and knowledge. We just have to think differently. We are no long working in farms, due to the advance in technology, physical strength is no longer as important as it was in the past. Now, emotional and mental strength become a more important entity to survive in the 21st century, and I love doing my part to help women realize this mentally and physically.
Celebrating a woman’s body and empowering their minds are some of the most important goals that I want to achieve one women’s health advocate and a fertility specialist.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you change to improve the system?
I am grateful for the immigration process that USA has provided for myself and my family. Yes, there is always room for improvement.
I would suggest…….
- Decreasing the length of time the application process itself takes
-Creating a more user friendly immigration website with clear and concise directions, clearly and, especially for those who might not be native speakers.
-Websites that help the immigrants to create some community after the immigration process.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
● Use your ability to assimilate in different worlds and connect to those whose lives are different than yours in order to help them. For instance, in my line of work I understand that all patients are vulnerable and I’m able show empathy, to think and feel for the person on the other side of the table which is one of the important characteristics one needs to have to be a good healthcare provider. I think my experience of feeling at times like I was an outside or from another world has helped me to gain and understand the other person’s perspective..
● Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Even with limited resources, I have always focused in what I did have, since I first arrived in this country. I didn’t have any friends when I arrived so my time are divided between a basketball court in the backyard and my books. It was very lonely for me as a teenager. So I just focused on what I had which was a basketball court in the neighbor’s backyard and my books. I shot baskets day and night, even before I really knew what a true basketball game was. I hadn’t watched a single basketball game before my arrival in America, but when I arrived I shot baskets all day long. Eventually I got so good, I was selected for the varsity team for the middle school, and then I was competing to play for New Jersey state. All this boils down to being focused and determined to survive and excel.
● Be grateful despite all the hardships with the process of immigration. I am very grateful for the opportunity that this country has provided to me. It is that shorlived moment when opportunity presents itself, that you must act on it and do so with gratuity, otherwise the opportunity will pass you by. I made a promise to myself that I would seize every opportunity to empower women and in doing so, ensure that what happened to my mom would not happen again.
● Find something that you are passionate about. I am passionate about women’s health care because of my mother’s upbringing and history. I am here because of her. She is a sociologist and a therapist, so during my younger years, I heard her talking about her past and her family at dinner, at lunch, and at breakfast, analyzing her own feelings and its dynamics. It made me wonder thigs like: Why is being a women sometimes so difficult? We have to suffer pain to have a child. We have menstrual cycles. Our biological clock is shorter than a man’s. I also wondered why being a girl has such suffering and inequality. I wondered if being a female was a curse in itself.
As I become older, I discovered that education and empowerment are the keys to decrease the fear and anxiety about all the topics mentioned. I have done very well since my younger years in math and sciences. So I was naturally great in biology. I study day and nights and eventually I dedicated my energy to what I was passionate about: Studying and eventually working in women’s health.
● Never lose hope: The immigration journey is long and there are parts of the journey that can be difficult — try to not lose sight of the goal.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
I am optimistic because I see people uniting and coming together as human beings, being more compassionate to one another and themselves, and having a more open mind. People are collaborating and uniting for causes they believe in, people are loving and supporting their neighbors and friends, and finding ways to be compassionate with themselves, even though the world can we very unforgiving and scary sometimes, and we are learning to find safety in our community. I believe in the power of teamwork and there is so much to be optimistic about right now. Examples of this I’ve seen include the Women’s March, Infertility Awareness Week — even jobs offering fertility benefits, and maternity/paternity leave.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Oprah Winfrey has dedicated her life to empowering women through education; she is a vigorous advocate with a global voice and I would like to discuss with her how we can best use clear communication to educate women about, break the silence on and end the stigmatization of women’s health and fertility.
An issue that I see daily is the stigmatization that women face about their feminine health and fertility. This stems from a lack of education about the changes a woman’s body will go through during the course of her adult life. This lack of education leads to silence; women feel embarrassed to discuss the changes their bodies are going through or the problems they are facing with fertility. Silence causes society’s inability to normalize women’s feminine health and fertility, and that ultimately leads to the stigmatization because women may think that if no one is talking about it, they must be the only person with the problem.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!