By: Limor Ben Ari of People of Delray Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Originally from Long Island, NY., Dr. Susan Schiff has been a resident of Delray Beach for 20 years. She is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and FABORM certified which means she is a specialist in the field of Reproductive Medicine and women’s health. Her downtown practice, of 20 years, has always been on SE 4th Ave which is now the up and coming SOFA district. Her passion and mission is educating and helping women through their reproductive and fertility challenges.
Dr. Schiff was originally a journalism major studying marketing and advertising. She worked for the largest printer in Gainesville to support herself through college and worked in the printing industry in Manhattan for several years afterwards. Through those years, she painfully struggled with stage four endometriosis. Western medicine failed to manage the pain and growth of the pelvic adhesions. Chinese medicine was a last resort, as it is for many patients that come to see her. She was treated by Chinese medicine physicians for several months and experienced relief as she never had before.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and food therapy changed her health and this is how her mission began.
“I believe that everyone has a purpose in this world. I discovered mine early. As soon as I experienced the benefits of Chinese medicine I knew that it was my purpose to study it and use it to help others,” she said.
Dr. Schiff began her education in Chinese medicine in New York. She transferred to South Florida to complete her studies. She did an externship in Harbin, China and has been studying with masters all over the US and Canada for the past 20 years. Every patient is treated individually based on their presentation. This is the biggest difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine. It’s also one of the key reasons her patients have great outcomes.
Dr. Schiff love golf and sunshine, and therefore chose to live in Delray Beach.
“When I received my DOM degree there weren’t any Chinese medical practices back then,” she said. “I had no place to work, so I had to open a practice myself. I originally had a practice down south in Plantation and as Delray Beach grew I made it my permanent practice home.”
Her office walls are full of art, awards and certifications, some in a foreign language. One particular painting, a woman with an injured womb, reminds her every day of what her patients are struggling with – the desire to conceive and create life.
Around her office, you’ll also see pictures of her son. Tiger is 9 1/2 years old. He is of Puerto Rican and African American descent. The sparkle in his eye and the brightness of his smile light up the room. Susan adopted him with her partner of 20 years when he was 5 days old.
Adopting a child as a gay couple was a challenging journey.
“Adoption was always on my radar” says Dr. Schiff. “The older I got the more I felt a responsibility as a citizen of the human race to take care of a child that needed a parent. If not me, then who?”
“Fortunately for us, Tiger fell into our lap” she says. It’s like a singer that is an overnight sensation after years of working gigs all over the country. That one night the right producer is listening and it’s a hit. “That’s how Tiger came to us. Right timing is everything. We looked into fostering prior to Tiger. Gay couples couldn’t legally adopt back then. Then I got a call from my friend, a fertility doctor. He called us after the adoptive parents backed out of an adoption at the last minute. It was 7:30 a.m. My partner and I had just taken a walk on the beach, and I remember telling her ‘This is it. This is our son’. My partner was on board. She knew that at the end of my days, when I’d be sitting in my rocking chair, that this would be the one thing in the way of me living my life of no regrets. I had to adopt Tiger as a single mother, and as the laws evolved we were able to legally carry out a second parent adoption.”
They never looked back. The process unfolded quickly and four days later they brought Tiger home. They had no car seat or crib and had nothing to support a baby’s needs. Dr. Schiff explains “we left in the morning to bring Tiger home and the whole community came together for us. It was amazing. Our house was full of gifts from friends, patients, and coworkers. The most memorable gift was breast milk from one of my patients. She gave birth to healthy twins around the same time and provided me with her breast milk for over eight months”.
Tiger is named after Tiger Woods. Her passion for golf is huge. Her respect and admiration for all that Tiger brought to the game she loves made it an easy pick. Tiger was bi-racial, and he was a game changer on many levels (from course design, to race erasing, to complete perception of the game). He transformed it to an exciting sport. Most importantly he was extremely close with his parents.
As a family, they have been on many adventures. They’ve travelled throughout the United States, as well as other countries such as the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, India and South Africa. They are on deck for Cuba in the spring. She pulled out a picture of their recent mountain repelling journey down Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa. Her son was all smiles. Tiger is into skateboarding and surfing. He is an active and social kid.
Susan is Jewish by tradition. She recalls that right before getting the news that Tiger was hers that she went to speak at a lecture with Rabbis and their wives. “They were so smart! They knew so much about Chinese medicine, the universe and life. Rabbis are scholars. Wonderful learning happened on both sides of this exchange. I felt very enlightened after that conference. The call from my attorney came on my drive home that evening – Tiger was mine!”
You won’t see pictures on her walls of the countless babies that are here because of her expertise and knowledge of fertility. “Baby pictures can be upsetting and sad for the women I work with. Seeing pictures of babies during their challenging process of trying to get pregnant can be upsetting.” In her closed cabinet behind her desk she keeps a binder full of ‘thank you’ letters and birth announcements. In those moments that a patient suffers a loss or at the end of a rough week she finds encouragement and faith in the privacy of her office spending time with this binder. “Fertility work is not for the faint of heart. The roller coaster of emotions and patient relationships are filled with highs and lows. It’s a ride worth taking, but not for everyone” she says.
She notes that each couple she works with has three stories: his, hers and their story together. “One of the real challenges around fertility is awareness. Forty percent of the time the problem is with the man, 40 percent of the time it is with the woman. The remaining 20 percent is a combination of both. Historically the majority of the patients coming to her were women. Rarely would a male come in for treatment. But times are changing and now we have more men than in years past. It’s still female dominated, but changing. There is so much we can do to help male factor subfertility.” Her success rate currently stands at around 75 percent.
Susan is currently writing a book about fertility. It’s not a technical book about how to get pregnant. There’s enough of that. It is a giving book. A book of hope and inspiration, sharing real life stories.”
Dr. Schiff is expressive about the following…. “All of us, every single one of us, is here for a reason. We have an inherent gift or gifts to share with the world. We get to discover our gifts, hone them and share them in the world. This is the core of fulfilling our sacred contracts.”