It’s unusual, and often leads to bewildered faces, but the Simplevas mobile vasectomy clinic sparks necessary conversations around male reproductive health, according to Dr. Esgar Guarín.
Developed from “an activism mindset and not a business mindset,” Dr. Guarín launched a mobile vasectomy clinic in April 2021 to normalize the operations and make them more accessible. Already working out of offices in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, the mobile trailer acts as a marketing tool that supplements Simplevas, a clinic entirely focused on vasectomies.
If getting a vasectomy in a trailer on the street doesn’t sound appealing at first, he understands the hesitation — although that does show there’s still a stigma surrounding the operation, he says.
“Of course, people are wary,” said Dr. Guarín, a 2017 Family Physician of the Year Award winner from the American Academy of Family Physicians in Iowa. “There’s a lack of knowledge about how vasectomies are done. People think it’s a complicated thing.”
The infrastructure required for a vasectomy, he says, is minimal compared to tubal ligations or other operations. And for vasectomies, the only medical professional needed in the room is a well-trained surgeon. Dr. Guarín even did his own vasectomy to show the operation is not a big deal.
In the United States, for every vasectomy completed, there are approximately two to three tubal ligations done. Dr. Guarin wants the U.S. to get closer to Canada’s tubal-ligation-to-vasectomy ratio. In Canada, for every tubal ligation, there are about seven vasectomies completed.
Working as a board certified physician trained in maternal, child and reproductive health, Dr. Guarín’s work in obstetrics gave him a “front row view” of the “pretty obvious burden” contraception has on women compared to men.
“There was a particular experience that touched me deep inside very, very strongly,” he explained. “Over the course of two years, I ended up delivering five women pregnant by the same guy, and one of the things I count as one of my biggest failures is that I could not convince him — no matter how blunt or direct I was — to get a vasectomy.”
So he set out to reduce the number of barriers causing men to shy away from vasectomies.
The biggest limiting factor is cost, so Simplevas reduced the cost of a vasectomy by 55%, from up to $2,000 to $699. They also make it easy to schedule an appointment online and don’t require multiple visits.
When you enter the front door of the mobile clinic, there is a waiting area with a desk and computer. On the left side is a small bathroom with a sink, toilet and water heater. Patients then move through to the back of the trailer where there is an examination table bolted to the floor so it doesn’t move. The exam room has a sink and water heater as well, plus air conditioning and plenty of light.
And no, you won’t have an operation while the vehicle is moving, he said with a laugh.
Driving once a month from Cedar Rapids to Sioux City to Waterloo and back to Cedar Rapids is an expensive and exhausting endeavor, he said. He does some operations on the road, but the monthly trek is more about generating exposure for the cause, reaching new people and even stirring up a little controversy.
“I have two daughters and I really want to leave behind a world where reproductive equality is not something we’re trying to achieve, but it’s something that has happened already,” he said. “A 10 minute procedure compared to all the other things that women have to go through is absolutely nothing.”