A Happy Specialty

Jeffrey Keenan ’79 sets record in fertility science
by Brooke Thames
With a Bucknell biology degree fresh in hand and unsure about what to pursue in medical school, every specialty was on the table for Jeffrey Keenan ’79 — except OB-GYN. He wasn’t sure it would interest him.

Then he reconsidered: “I realized that I loved having an ongoing relationship with patients. As an OB-GYN, you see patients for 9 months at the least, but typically every year after that.”

After decades of practice as a leading reproductive endocrinologist and fertility expert, Keenan is convinced he chose the “happiest” specialty of all. “I’ve had patients who I’ve helped have children, and then those children have come to see me as adults,” he says.

Between teaching courses at the University of Tennessee and co-running his own fertility center, Keenan is president and medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tenn. In February 2020, he set a record when a baby girl was born from an implanted embryo that had been frozen nearly 30 years earlier. It was the longest-frozen embryo to culminate in a live birth.

Jeff Keenan Headshot
Photo: Courtesy of the University of Tennessee
Jeff Keenan ’79 is a fertility specialist who was part of a record-setting delivery.
For the science of in vitro fertilization, it was an exciting and reassuring milestone, suggesting that frozen embryos may not have an expiration date. But for Keenan, the accomplishment was simply another heartwarming act of service.

“You see that joy your patients have when they see that first ultrasound up to when they bring the babies back to see you or they send family pictures at Christmas — it’s such a wonderful feeling,” he says. “Working in this field is something I was called to do. I just went where God put me, hoped for the best and never looked back.”