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Dr Nicole Sides: Fertility specialist, businesswoman

Emma Macdonald

Dr Nicole Sides is the ACT’s Telstra Businesswoman of the Year for 2016.

Nicole Sides remembers at the age of just seven she determined she was going to be a doctor. She delivered a detailed lecture to another young friend on the birds and the bees. So it’s no real surprise her chosen field of obstetrics and gynecology would lead her to become an award-winning Canberra fertility specialist.

Earlier this month Dr Sides was awarded two Telstra Business Woman awards – the ACT Entrepreneur Award and the overall ACT Telstra Businesswoman of the Year award.

With an impressive CV including completing her medical degree, specialised clinical training, and becoming a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists RANZCOG by the age of 32, Dr Sides then set up Compass Fertility (then ISIS) in Canberra in 2009.

Settling on the name ISIS because it is the name of the Egyptian Goddess of Fertility, Dr Sides has assisted countless couples and singles achieve their dream of having a baby.

She believes the success of her clinic rests on the dual focus on male reproductive health – over 50 percent of her couples have male fertility problems – and then the focus on non-invasive fertility treatments including nutrition and exercise. Dr Sides says half of all couples coming to her can achieve a pregnancy without progressing to more invasive IVF.

“We use lifestyle changes, correcting diet and encouraging exercise with natural tracking to optimise the chances of becoming pregnant naturally,” she says.

“We consistently achieve pregnancy rates in the top 10 percent for fertility clinics in Australia.”

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But she has a few words of warning for Canberrans, who put careers before fertility.

“I think the highly-educated, professional workforce in Canberra really makes pregnancies a bit challenging sometimes. I often have to explain that couples need to focus on actually having sex and getting pregnant rather than keeping up the crazy work schedule of late nights and travel. Sometimes I have to say to people, no you can’t put it off until you come back from a three-year posting to Washington, you need to focus on a baby now.”

While Dr Sides still finds every positive pregnancy test for her patients worthy of celebration, she is also immensely proud of establishing a Refugee Program which provides assistance for refugees forging a new life in Australia, charging at Medicare rates only.

The program has been extended to new Canberra families arriving from countries such as Sudan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. 

It began when community organisation Companion House referred a couple from Sudan who had the entire family massacred, including their three children. They had been unable to become pregnant, had little money and needed IVF – a technologically intense and expensive service.

The couple were thrilled when they became pregnant after the first cycle and they have also now had further access to cycles and had another baby.

Dr Sides fondly recalls that the couple came back to the fertility team following the first baby and shared with them a traditional Sudanese dish from their home country. The couple now have two beautiful healthy children and still maintain contact with the fertility team from Compass.

“It was a lesson for all of us in adaption, cultural exchange, and in preserving pride while using high technology treatments in a couple from a much different background where conflict and trauma had been a way of life and they had gone through so much trauma and difficulty just to make it to our simple first meeting.”

But it was just one of the rewarding results of her work. Now the clinic continues to treat many refugee couples from around the world, as well providing medical and clinical fertility service to the Canberra and regional community as a whole.

A mother of three teenaged children of her own, Dr Sides never tires of babies.

“I run into patients outside of work, around Canberra. They show me their babies, they point to their children. It still blows me away. I just love what I do.”

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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