Special Feature

 

 

November 4, 2021

 

FACTS Benefactors: Santiago and Melissa Solares

Editor’s Note: For over a decade, the generosity of our benefactors has fueled the execution of our mission. Without their ongoing support, the FACTS team would not be able to advance the unique, vital mission of FACTS. Indeed, no other organization has set to accomplish our goal of educating the next generation of medical and health professionals about the science behind fertility awareness. 

At FACTS, we take every opportunity to express our gratitude for their generosity. This month, we feature a couple who has actively supported the work of FACTS from the very beginning. Santiago and Melissa Solares have used and taught the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) through the Couple-to-Couple League (CCL) for years, and have come alongside the mission of FACTS with wholehearted dedication. We are grateful for their contributions to our elective and for their consistent support as monthly donors of FACTS.

Meet Melissa and Santiago Solares

Melissa Solares grew up in Ohio and Pennsylvania. She ventured off to the University of Maine to receive a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and, later, an M.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources from West Virginia University. Upon graduation, she moved to California and worked with the California Department of Fish and Game. 

Santiago Solares was born in Guatemala, majored in engineering, and came to the United States for graduate studies in Florida and, later, in California. They met and married while living in California. Shortly after marriage, they became certified to teach the Sympto-Thermal Method with the Couple-to-Couple League. 

Supporting FACTS from its Early Days 

Dr. Marguerite Duane, cofounder of FACTS, taught an elective in fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) at Georgetown University School of Medicine prior to our more widely available online elective. Recalling when she first started teaching the elective at Georgetown, she noted, “We felt it was important for people to hear from those using these methods so they could hear the male and female perspectives.” Dr. Duane was given the Solares’ names as a potential couple to share their experience as users and teachers of STM. 

During the second year of the elective, she invited them to participate in a panel for the students. “They did such an amazing job of sharing unique insights not only from the perspective of benefits and challenges of using these methods but also from their professional background.” Given Melissa’s training and education in environmental engineering, she could speak to the negative impact of synthetic hormones in water waste and our environment. 

Her husband is a professor and also an engineer. Dr. Duane remarked that, from Santiago’s perspective as a Hispanic man, he would speak to cultural aspects and stereotypes impacting fertility awareness. “Using a natural method for family planning has given him a deeper appreciation for his wife and what she goes through. He recognizes the importance of working together with his wife,” Duane added. “When he educates male students about fertility awareness, he emphasizes it’s not all about them and their needs. He teaches that to help improve your life, it’s best to attend to your wife, care for her needs, and work together.”

Dr. Duane went on to say that “Santiago wants to debunk the myth that these methods are only for a certain segment of the population.” The couple believes these methods should be readily available to everyone.

An Interview with the Couple

How did you first learn about fertility awareness and FABMs? 

“We were aware of FABMs for a long time before our marriage,” noted Melissa, who is a second-generation NFP (natural family planning) user. Her parents used a simple version of the Billings Ovulation Method. Santiago knew the basics of fertility awareness from presentations given at his school. Also, as part of their marriage preparation, they took a course with the Couple-to-Couple League.

Do you teach or use a specific FABM? 

“We have taught the Sympto-Thermal Method of the Couple-to-Couple League since 2005, but we are also familiar with the basics of other methods, such as the Creighton Model, the Marquette Model, and the Billings Ovulation Method. We mainly teach engaged and married couples, and we’ve heard mostly positive feedback from students about how much learning about the woman’s cycle has empowered them and changed their lives for the better.”

How have FABMs/fertility awareness impacted your life and work?

“We have volunteered to help teach NFP to couples for the past sixteen years and have used that knowledge to help reach many couples. We have also given multiple talks about NFP to couples preparing for marriage.” Beyond teaching others, the couple has used FABMs throughout their marriage to help plan their family. 

How did you find out about FACTS?

“We have known Dr. Duane almost since we moved to Maryland fifteen years ago. We met her at a meeting of NFP teachers and professionals. After establishing a relationship with her and learning of her desire to teach physicians about fertility awareness methods, we naturally followed that development at Georgetown University and beyond. So, when she created FACTS, we wholeheartedly supported her efforts in that organization from the beginning.”

What do you do for FACTS? 

“Years ago, we helped during the panels of the Georgetown elective class. We have also shared information about FACTS with various health professionals and with women seeking knowledge about fertility awareness methods. We share FACTS information on social media directly from the FACTS pages.” 

The couple also supports the mission of FACTS through monthly giving, and they explained why. “The work of FACTS is extremely important because fertility awareness is a highly neglected area of medicine. In our experience with medical professionals, very few of them truly understand the fertility cycle and are willing to work with patients who use FABMs. Physicians need to learn about this important area to be able to respect and help couples plan their families in a healthy and natural way.”

Santiago is a professor of engineering. From his perspective, “an Ob-Gyn physician who is not taught fertility awareness and the details of the menstrual cycle is like an engineer who is not taught calculus.”

Do you have any future goals in the field of fertility awareness and with CCL? 

“We plan to continue to participate in marriage preparation and testimonial talks through our local archdiocese. We also plan to continue supporting professional organizations such as FACTS and California Natural Family Planning.”

Where do you see the field of fertility awareness headed in the future?

The couple hopes fertility awareness knowledge will continue to spread and become typical in the population rather than atypical. “We hope that continued education of physicians on this subject will allow even more women to become aware of FABM options.” These options “could then become another method of planning births that doctors would become familiar with and begin to promote in their practices as healthier options than artificial methods.”

They concluded by reflecting on the advantages of educating people about FABMs. “We believe that, in supporting FACTS, we are allowing doctors to have the opportunity to learn about FABMs and their validity as a legitimate method of spacing births. In teaching the Sympto-Thermal Method, we find it very gratifying to teach couples about multiple signs of fertility they may experience in the women’s cycle. By empowering them with this knowledge, we help guide them towards healthier life choices physically and spiritually for their marriages.”

A Meaningful Gesture

About seven years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Solares nominated Dr. Duane for an award through the Couple-to-Couple League. The Edward O’Keefe Award is given to a person who goes above and beyond in promoting the science of natural family planning. Dr. Duane was selected to receive the award and remains grateful for their thoughtful nomination and kind support. 

“Although they both have busy lives with their work and three children,” added Dr. Duane, “they always found time to participate in our live panel presentations at Georgetown. They are also generous donors.” Thanks to their commitment to this important work, countless people continue to benefit through education, and the mission of FACTS keeps moving forward. 

We appreciate the consistent support we receive from Santiago and Melissa Solares. Their generosity encourages us to persevere as we strive to educate the next generation of physicians to ensure women and couples are empowered with accurate information and equipped with tools to understand their bodies and value their fertility.

More About Santiago and Melissa Solares

After living in California for two years, the couple moved to Bowie, Maryland, outside Washington, DC, where they still reside. Melissahomeschools their three children in 4th, 6th, and 8th grades. As a couple, they have participated in marriage preparation programs regularly through their parish, archdiocese, and various local organizations.


 

Our donors make a difference!

The FACTS online elective is meeting the needs of medical students, residents, and health professional students in unique ways that include self-paced learning, live case studies, telemedicine, in-person options, and more! During the 2020-21 academic year, 225 students completed our pioneering elective. Thanks to our donors, this year we expanded the elective to meet the growing demand, and are projected to fill every one of our 270 spots! The generous support of our donors enables us to expand so we may continue to serve our students without turning anyone away. Thank you!

We are grateful for monthly donors like Santiago and Melissa Solares who fuel our work so we may continue to reach medical professionals with accurate, evidence-based information about FABMs. 

Your generosity increases our reach and impact!

Your generous contribution enables us to educate and engage medical professionals and students by sharing the evidence supporting fertility awareness-based methods with them.

  • $100 provides a scholarship for a student to attend a FACTS conference
  • $250 covers the registration for a student to enroll in our elective
  • $500 funds a FACTS speaker to educate students about FABMs

We appreciate all our donors. Thank you!

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