Every day, Dr. Sheldon Marks, founder of the International Center for Vasectomy Reversal, receives pictures of babies from his patients. The small mementos serve as confirmation of a successful career and business dedicated to a single task.
“No one ever dreams of having a vasectomy reversal,” Marks said. “So the job isn’t really about me or the reversal, it’s about the magic that can happen if we do our jobs right.”
Marks founded ICVR in 1993 to exclusively perform vasectomy reversals. In the two and a half decades since, the center has helped more than 6,000 men from every state in the U.S., and more than 80 countries around the world. According to Marks, ICVR’s philosophy is for the doctors and staff to strive to give every patient the highest quality treatment possible.
“Some people are happy doing a little bit of a lot, but I wanted to do one thing better than anyone else,” Marks said.
Marks started his education at Occidental College in Los Angeles before moving onto medical school at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. During his surgery training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota he realized with urology, he could focus on a single organ system. This, combined with nearsightedness which made him interested in microscopic surgeries, paved a path toward vasectomy reversal.
“My practice focused very early on,” Marks said. “It was like God, or the universe, or Mother Nature made me nearsighted early on so I would do just this.”
Due to the specific nature of his work, Marks said the situations his patients come to him with are similar, although everyone has a unique story. Generally, patients are middle-aged men who received a vasectomy roughly 10 years ago, but are looking to grow their family again.
“Some might say their initial vasectomy was a mistake, but I tell them it’s not that they rushed into it, it’s that they weren’t looking at the big picture,” Marks said. “The vasectomy made perfect sense for their life at that time, but things change.”
Marks currently holds the world record for a successful reversal 42 years from the initial vasectomy. The patient who received it now has a 17-year-old daughter.
“I do one surgery a day so that the patient gets my full and undivided attention, nor am I fatigued from doing other surgeries earlier in the day,” Marks said. “This gets a better outcome, and it’s just the right way to do it.”
Marks’ passion for the industry goes beyond performing surgeries; in 2018, he quite literally wrote the book on the subject, titled “Vasectomy Reversal: Manual of Vasovasostomy and Vasoepididymostomy” which is now available via Springer Publishing. In addition, he invented the specialized Marks Vas Cutting Forceps instrument which is now used every day at ICVR, as well as other centers around the world.
“I’ve done surgery with tons of doctors, but the way Dr. Marks does surgery with his patients, you don’t see it anymore,” said Dawn Otterson, senior patient care coordinator at ICVR. “He does house calls, he really is conscientious. Often during consultations, they’re not even talking about surgery, they’re talking about life. He really tries to make that connection with the patients.”
Marks said because of the close time spent with his patients, many of them end up becoming his friends. A baby that resulted from one of the reversals he performed grew up to be interested in surgery, and even interned at ICVR.
When he’s not performing vasectomy reversals with a 99.5 percent success rate, Marks volunteers with the Tucson police SWAT team and teaches medical courses for the Medical Reserve Corps. Marks is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Urology.
“At any moment, I have about a dozen things I need to do,” Marks said. “But it’s like you either fall forward or you fall back, so I’m going to keep going forward.”
Congratulations to Dr. Sheldon Marks on winning Inside Tucson Business’ and Tucson Local Media’s Influential Health and Medical Leader Lifetime Achievement Award. Join us in celebrating him and other impactful medical leaders at our awards ceremony June 12. More details here.