Dec 16, 2020 | Advocacy, Uncategorized

This Entrepreneur and Advocate Finds Purpose Through Adversity


Purpose can be discovered in the most unexpected—and sometimes adverse—ways. For Alice Crisci, it was in 2008 after being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31. 

“Jen [Earle, NAWBO’s CEO] was with me and I’ll never forget that,” says Alice, who worked with Jen at the time. “We both knew it wasn’t good news when we saw the ultrasound even though the doctor said, ‘It’s probably not it; you’re so young.’”

That’s when the issue of infertility came onto her radar. Alice was sitting at one of many doctor appointments when Jen, who knew the impact of chemotherapy on a woman’s reproductive health, asked her, “Are you going to freeze your eggs?” 

When Alice asked her surgeon about it, the doctor confirmed she was at high risk of being left infertile from treatment. “I just knew emphatically that was not okay, because I always wanted to be a mom,” she shares. “That day, I begged her to refer me to fertility clinics and she was like “No, no, no, you can wait.” 

Alice left her surgeon’s office that day and took it into her own hands. She called three fertility clinics and booked a consult with the one that seemed the nicest. “That one phone call is what began the rest of my life,” she says.

A phone consult and in-person appointment with the clinic followed, and then Alice had to figure out how to pay for the $20,000 procedure. “Clinics have lowered their price points for egg freezing and fertility preservation since then, but it was considered experimental at the time,” she explains. Because of the income Alice had earned the previous year, she couldn’t get financial aid, so she asked her credit card company for a limit increase to pay for it. 

“We were walking out of that appointment and I said to Jen, ‘This must be why I got cancer. We’re going to fix this and do a non-profit,’” Alice shares. 

By that weekend, My Vision Foundation (which later evolved into Fertile Action) was formed to educate people, increase access, create financial aid programs and work on legislative issues, and the organization’s website went live. They put together a board of passionate women who had gone through cancer treatment and preserved their fertility or were currently in the process. And four weeks later, they held their first fundraiser, where they raised enough seed money to start this important work.

Meanwhile, Alice had begun her battle. She had a double mastectomy, followed by chemo, and then during and after chemo, participated in a clinical trial to avoid bone metastasis. “They also put me in a medical menopause right away so I went from being 31 to 51 years old overnight,” she shares. “That was probably one of the hardest parts of the treatment.” Alice endured this aggressive treatment for three years and has been cancer-free since. A number of years ago, she was also able to use her frozen eggs to conceive a son.   

By 2011, Fertile Action was already making a major impact. They were working on the advocacy side of fertility and sponsored the first piece of fertility preservation legislation, which was in California. Around the same time, Alice assembled a group of fertility specialists who were willing to do egg freezing for a reduced fee of $3,000 or even pro bono for some women. They also pushed to have it recognized as a benefit for health insurance coverage, which happened in California as well two years ago. 

While this advocacy and philanthropy was certainly healing for Alice, a number of years ago, she went back to work to support her family. With the name she had created for herself in reproductive medicine, Alice began consulting—working with start-ups, doing investor decks, business modeling and strategic planning. That’s when she met her current business partner of MedAnswers, an organization they created together in 2012 to end the spread of misinformation one healthcare specialty at a time, starting with fertility. 

“We wanted to drive the egg freezing market by getting women to know their hormone levels and to do it in a non-invasive way,” she explains. For the first several years, they worked in a lab trying to figure it out, and then in 2016, they had an idea for an app that would bring personalized predictive healthcare to the field of fertility. By the fall, they received their first funding and the following summer, the free iPhone and Android app was live.

This app is now available in English and Spanish to anyone around the globe (though their primary market is women in the U.S.). It works like this: Users anonymously provide health data in exchange for asking questions. Those questions are answered by a medical advisory board of a wide range of doctors and other healthcare professionals. Users can even use the app to connect with doctors in their area for in-person appointments.

“Without meaning to, we have collected over 250 million data points—a view of fertility that no one else is looking at,” she says. Alice often shares this data when speaking to groups and with advocacy partners and other collaborators around the world. She also hopes to publish the data at some point in the future. 

As a result of this data, Alice and her business partner realized there’s a huge gap. “Women don’t really have the knowledge about their fertility hormones, so we have created a few different home kits,” she says. This includes an affordable, direct-to-consumer fertility DNA kit (the only one on the market) as well as a patent-pending hormone hair test that provides the most comprehensive non-invasive view of a woman or man’s hormones.

Just as MedAnswers had intended since the beginning, the company is expanding into other health categories impacting reproductive aged people, like Gut Health, Migraines, Obesity, Diabetes, Allergy, Addiction, and yes, even COVID-19, to name a few.

“When the World Health Organization coined what has happened this year as an infodemic, I thought that really applied to every aspect of healthcare,” says Alice. “I was put here to be a communicator—a bridge—to prevent the spread of misinformation. That was a very validating moment where I knew we had the exact tool to break through the noise.”

Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, Alice knows there’s still much work to do. In the area of fertility alone, 86 percent of people who need a fertility consult with a specialist do not get one. Also, the media continues to portray that women are waiting longer to have children when the truth is, they are trying and struggling—for 38 months on average—before seeing a specialist. 

Additionally, an opportunity for a potential strategic acquisition or investment has emerged. “That’s really exciting because it validates what we’ve accomplished and where we’re headed,” she says. “We need to scale. We have helped 60,000 people to date but we need to help 6 million. So how do we get there? We pick the right partners along the way.”

“The reality is the vision I had in 2016 isn’t fully realized because it takes a long time to build and there were aspects of the platform that were quick and others that are on the roadmap that we still have to get to,” reflects Alice. “It’s about staying closely connected to the community we’re serving.” 

That will not only continue to set MedAnswers apart, but serve as a constant reminder to Alice of her unique purpose.

Innovating with Small to Mid-Sized Businesses in Mind

MedAnswers knows small employers are predominantly woman-owned companies and that while they might want to provide fertility benefits to their employees, most can’t afford it. That’s why they’re preparing to launch Fertility Perk, which taps into their deeply discounted network of medical providers and makes it accessible to small and mid-sized business owners.

Skip to content