“We’re starting to educate people. We’re coming out of the dark ages,” says Dr. Mark Surrey about the subject of infertility. “We should be more proactive as a society and, as a profession, we’re on the cusp of understanding the implications that decreasing fertility has on our society.”
Mark is the co-founder and medical director of the Southern California Reproductive Center, which runs full-service centers in Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills, as well as satellite clinics in Ventura, Bakersfield, and elsewhere. He believes that Santa Barbara offers one of the best facilities in this part of the world. “It has the same technical lab you associate with a big university,” he explains.
Mark started coming to Santa Barbara 20 years ago at the request of doctors who desired such a lab, and now lives here about half the year. “I’m here because I love Santa Barbara,” he shares, “and I want to provide the best quality of service, the best resources.”
A leader in the field of reproductive medicine, including reproductive surgery and in vitro fertilization (IVF), Mark has been in practice for more than 25 years. He’s a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, which also provides services to Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
Mark was born in Washington, D.C., where his father worked in the construction business, a career that relied on the bank accounts of clients. “I wanted a profession that wasn’t financially dependent on other people,” he explains. So he went to the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad and then George Washington University for his M.D.“Being an M.D., you can attain knowledge to take care of human life,” he says. “It was a higher calling.”
He came to UCLA for his internship and residency, and trained in surgery as an ObGyn. “I didn’t want to be an ObGyn at the time,” he says. “IVF was just starting. UCLA allowed me to go to London and study microsurgery.”
In 1979, he completed a research fellowship at the University of London’s Hammersmith Hospital, then continued his training at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. IVF technology was much more advanced in both England and Australia at the time. “It may have to do with political and social aspects,” he explains. When he came back to UCLA, with an embryologist from Monash in tow, he started one of the earlier IVF programs in the United States.
While enjoying a leisurely lunch at Louie’s, I point out his soothing and calming demeanor. Self-deprecatingly, he refers to it as a “flattened affect.” He continues, “I try to achieve a level of inner calmness. I’m a bit obsessive of doing things well. I try to slow things down. I evoke an aura of calmness. Anger is not a productive emotion.“
Dr. Mark Surrey answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your motto?
It’s the same as my father’s motto: “You get what you pay for. If you want to succeed, you have to pay the price.”
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
To have helped establish one of the best fertility centers in the world and have four amazing children.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Don’t laugh — I just redid my garden, so I am quite proud of my landscaping
What do you like most about your job?
I love practicing medicine. The art of being able to help someone have a healthy baby is a very special task with an amazing outcome.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I am perfectly happy in exactly what I’m doing. I chose this line of work. So doing what I do and helping to create a healthy baby is perfect happiness to me.
What is your greatest fear?
Everything the opposite of an unhealthy baby.
Who do you most admire?
I most admire people who have achieved excellence in whatever field they are in or have pursued. The blood, sweat, and tears put into being the best is something I am familiar with.
What is your current state of mind?
I consider myself to be a very positive person most of the time.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
I value loyalty.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I have no tolerance for laziness. I guess you could also say I am a perfectionist
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Let me splain you.”
Which talent would you most like to have?
I play the piano, but I would like to play it much better than I do now.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be more tolerant of faults, from others and my own.
Where would you most like to live?
Right where I am.
What is your most treasured possession?
My youngest son.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
On what occasion do you lie?
When I compliment someone, who doesn’t deserve it. To make them feel good and perhaps motivate them.