Member’s Spotlight!

The CFAS is shining the spotlight on members who make a difference and contribute to the betterment of the society and the field!

1) What got you interested in the field of fertility?
My mother was an exceptional, highly regarded, and incredibly caring Labour and Delivery nurse and I fell in love with Obstetrics and Gynaecology through her example. I ended up working for a few Ob-Gyn MDs in high school and one of them had an infertility practice which I found  very interesting. As a nurse, I worked in Labour and Delivery, Gynecology, and Sexual Assault and eventually made my way into the exciting world of Fertility as a Nurse Practitioner!
 
2) Describe a regular day in your shoes:
Wake up at the crack of dawn to get myself and three young children ready for the day, get everyone where they need to be and then begin my work day. A typical work day consists of clinical work (ie. performing endometrial biopsies, seeing fertility preservation patients such as patients with cancer or gender diverse individuals prior to or in conjunction with gender affirmation treatment, or seeing cancer survivors who are interested in their ovarian function status) and leadership activities (ie. committee work, quality improvement initiatives, policy and procedure work, professional development).
 
3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter? 
I would say having to tell someone who survived cancer that their likelihood of having a genetically linked child is extremely low. Many patients were not offered the opportunity to preserve their fertility before treatment and when we see them as survivors and they are in premature ovarian failure, the conversation is a very difficult one. But focusing on the options that are available to them does help.
 
4) What keeps you going? 
I love the work and I love the people. It is an honour to work with an incredible team and to care for fertility patients. There is literally never a dull moment in the field of REI!
 
5) What do you like most about the CFAS? 
I am a standardization and best practice enthusiast so I find working on CFAS projects like the nurse competency project and Choosing Wisely, as well as Clinical Practice Guidelines and being active in the executive committees of the nursing and fertility preservation special interest groups as well as a Board of Directors member very fulfilling.
 
6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
Being part of the Society keeps me current and engaged. I find benefit in the educational sessions (webinars, annual meetings, regional meetings, newsletters, members portal), refer to the publications (guidelines, position statements) regularly, and I like to meet and work with leaders in the field.
 
7) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
I love the networking and camaraderie that comes with it but I find the real benefit is the reciprocal sharing and gaining of knowledge.
 
8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you:
I won a proficiency award for French in Grade 8!

SaraC1) What got you interested in the field of fertility
I have always been interested in this area. I had the good fortune of working at one of Toronto’s clinics when I was a student, and followed up by spending a summer at Princeton University’s Office of Population Research, working on some related policies. When in law school, I took every course available that I could and made it about fertility and the law. Finally, I had a lot of empathy for people who wanted to be a parent and struggled to do so. I feel very fortunate to be able to assist people in such a special and meaningful way.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
Putting out a lot of fires! Chatting with intended parents early in the morning and late in the evening, talking with the clinics, working on a lecture or a presentation, and many, many emails!

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
The law is slow to change, and lags behind both technology and social development. It is frustrating!

4) What keeps you going?
I feel privileged to witness and play a small role in the beautiful relationships between the gestational carriers and the intended parents, and the donors and the parents. The collaborative nature of this type of family building is extremely touching.

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
I love how CFAS has grown by leaps and bounds, and is doing more and more to include a multidisciplinary outlook!

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
It provides wonderful learning opportunities

7) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
I believe it is very important for the fertility community to come together to develop best practices, to keep on learning and growing and to learn from each other. CFAS is the best way to do this.

8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
I can read Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Winsor1) What got you interested in the field of fertility?
In 2001, Sherry Dale Mondesir contacted the Joint Centre for Bioethics (JCB) at the University of Toronto for help creating an ethics committee for Lifequest Centre for Reproductive Medicine (now TRIO Fertility). I was completing an MHSc in Bioethics at JCB and jumped at the chance.  It was a unique opportunity to work in an area that was almost exclusively the subject of theoretical and research-focused study in bioethics, but little applied practice. It’s been a remarkably satisfying and productive sixteen years. And despite everything else I’ve been involved in since, I’m am still chairing that ethics committee and loving it.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
Not many regular days in my line of work. As I’m currently in the dissertation-writing stage of my PhD, that occupies a good portion of my time, but there is a lot of variety in whatever else I may be doing on any given day. I could be meeting with me and Carl Laskin’s research team that is about to launch a study surveying the impact on patients and clinicians of IVF funding in Ontario (thank you CFAS for the Seed Grant!). As I do a lot of work in health technology assessment (HTA) I could be reviewing an HTA for the Ontario Genetics Advisory Committee of HQO, or providing feedback on an HTA’s systematic review proposal for the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) or co-writing ART practice guidelines for the Public Health Agency of Canada. I could also be speaking at a conference, symposium, or to a university class or fertility clinic. But one thing is for certain, at some point in the day I’ll be telling one of my three kids to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
Clinicians and policy makers are deeply practical people, and with good reason. They want to follow the shortest, most efficient path to whatever outcome they’re seeking.  Getting them to consider how other factors, aside from empirical data and law and regulations, have significant impacts on how and whether they achieve those outcomes requires great patience.  I’m working on it!

4) What keeps you going?
The work is always interesting, the questions important, the people engaging.

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
It’s been exciting to watch the profile of bioethics expand at CFAS and in the fertility industry in general since I first got involved sixteen years ago. The value brought by the bioethics perspective is clearer to more people.  And increasingly, CFAS is acting as an important forum for discussing issues relevant to a wider variety of people who not only work in the fertility industry but are its clients.

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
CFAS exposes me to some of the most current clinical research in ART and to a community of clinicians and researchers deeply committed to their industry and practice.  For a bioethicist, that’s a good foundation on which to have a conversation about how and why what we’re doing matters.

7) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
At my first CFAS conference in Jaspar, 2004, Peter Brinsden provided the opening plenary talk and spoke at length about the ethical issues facing ART practitioners. I was very impressed. I was also on conference faculty that year and the response to my workshop was very positive. Together, these events left me eager to continue working with the CFAS.

Several years later, Agneta Hollander, CFAS’s ED at the time, asked me to start an Ethics SIG.  (Those who know Agneta will not be surprised that she got her wish despite my initial resistance at the increased workload.) I thought we should include lawyers under our tent and the Ethics-Law SIG was born.  Nearly a decade in, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as a SIG and look forward to continuing to have the important conversations with colleagues across all CFAS disciplines.

8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
I am one of a pair of identical twins who was each 9lbs at birth. Something that I have been atoning to my mother for ever since.

I have always viewed my medical career as simply to follow my interests. I have given this same advice to trainees. Of course, having completed my training in internal medicine/rheumatology and immunology, never in a million years did I think I would be doing what I’m doing today. It is hard to believe that I am one of the “senior” physicians in reproductive medicine in Canada, despite how immature I might be.

I am frequently asked how I made the move into reproductive medicine. Although I don’t believe the few of you who might be reading this really care how I got here, it’s my story so you will have to live through my telling.

In 1985, I turned my research interests to the investigation and management of pregnancy in lupus and anti-phospholipid syndrome. Women with these conditions have a higher incidence of losses. Extrapolating from my observations in this group of patients, I expanded my scope to autoimmunity and recurrent pregnancy loss. I established a large research program in recurrent pregnancy loss, the Treatment and Evaluation of Recurrent Miscarriage, or TERM Programme. One of the observations made in the patients with recurrent pregnancy loss, is that a significant percentage developed secondary infertility. So my journey into lupus pregnancy opened up the door to reproductive medicine.

After being trained by one of my collaborators, Dr. Allan Shewchuk in 1986, we formed a group of four, Drs. Allan Shewchuk, Fred Mandel and Ken Cadesky. By 1992 we formed Success Through Assisted Reproductive Technologies or START, which was a fully functional IVF unit. After the passing of Drs. Mandel and Shewchuk, START was restructured to LifeQuest. LifeQuest then merged with The Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technologies to form TRIO Fertility and the rest is history.

In my clinical practice, I wear three hats. I have specific days dealing with infertility, others dedicated to recurrent pregnancy loss and those clinics dealing specifically with reproductive problems in men and women with autoimmune diseases. There is certainly no time to be bored. Perhaps the most stimulating aspect of this somewhat eclectic practice is the number of residents and fellows spending time in my clinic. I have a significant administrative role at TRIO Fertility being the Managing Director. There is no doubt that all of these activities are my reason for coming into work every day. I barely notice my 60-hour workweek! However, another adage I live by is when it stops being fun, do something else. I certainly have no interest in doing anything else.

In 2007, the singular decision to become active in CFAS hailed my arrival on the national stage in reproductive medicine. The CFAS is the vehicle whereby we promote the field of reproductive medicine from multiple disciplines: medicine, nursing, embryology, counselling, ethics and law. There is no industry that demands input and collaboration from such a diverse group of professionals, whether dealing with patients, the general public or the government. There is really no other way to appreciate the nuances and intricacies of this field without being active in CFAS. The pinnacle whereby I gained the grand perspective of reproductive medicine nationally was when I became president in 2009-2010. When you serve as president of our society, you get to know everyone in the field. Those who were once strangers, become colleagues and many become collaborators and evolve into friends. There is absolutely no substitute for the professional and social networking made possible by our society. Although the year as president is a very busy and demanding year, it is without a doubt very fulfilling. I would have liked to do another year, but the torch must be passed.

After being president, it is often tough to let go. I have therefore continued to volunteer my time in doing whatever I can to maintain the vitality of the society. It is definitely a two-way street as this involvement keeps me enthusiastic and motivated.

As the years have gone by, I have observed the occurrence of a strange phenomenon. I appreciate that I am now seen as one of the “senior citizens” in our specialty. With the increasing growth of “Nordic blond hair” I have noted that the same things I may have said over the past 20 or more years, are now perceived as “wise”! However, my wife does bring me back to reality when I hear those very tender and supportive words, “shmuck, take out the garbage”.

I look forward to continue seeing only those who have read this at all future meetings of CFAS and I thank you all for your collegiality and friendship.

Mortimer1) What got you interested in the field of fertility?
Patrick Quinn was my lecturer in Animal Development in my final year as an undergrad at the University of Newcastle (in Australia). Among other things, we did mouse IVF in a prac class, and I was hooked (it also helped that he gave me 11/10 for one of the pracs!). When the opportunity came up in 1985 to work at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne with one of the world’s pioneer groups in IVF, I leapt at it, and have just loved the privilege of being involved in the field since then.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
I suppose the theme of my work is to promote a best practice approach in laboratory ART for the benefit of all the stakeholders (the scientists, the clinic as a whole, and the patients). For example, today, I’m going to do some more work on a layout for a new ART laboratory overseas, and then review some construction specifications documents for another project in the Middle East. Later, I will be doing some pro bono work for Alpha Scientists in Reproductive Medicine on developing the minimum standards for Clinical Embryologists, and on writing a report of a recent international consensus meeting on ART laboratory KPIs. In amongst that, I also have to review the program for the upcoming UEARS 2017 meeting in Cairo, for which I am a member of the Embryology International Advisory Board.

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
The biggest challenge is that there is still so much to learn about the physiology of reproduction. This means that while we can go some way in designing lab systems that reduce the stress on gametes and embryos by replicating the conditions inside the body, we still have a long way to go.

4) What keeps you going?
We’ve come so far in being able to help people achieve their dreams of having a family, and that is such a privilege, to be able to contribute to something so momentous. When I started in this field over 30 years ago, the expected pregnancy rate per IVF cycle was 8-12%. Even though it can be up to 5× that now, there is still the same level of excitement in hearing that a patient is pregnant.

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
The CFAS recognizes that fertility treatment is about a multidisciplinary team, and promotes that via its SIGs. In this way, the CFAS makes a critical contribution to the health and growth of the field, by providing an opportunity for geographically separated professionals to meet and interact.

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
In general terms, the CFAS provides a platform for every professional involved in fertility care, and the opportunity for the different professions to learn about each other’s issues and challenges. For ART laboratory professionals specifically, the CFAS offers enormous value, providing the only forum in Canada for recognition of competency in the field through its certification program, as well as other educational opportunities.

BSA 057) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
I volunteer my time to the CFAS because I believe that as an older professional, it is my responsibility to ensure that there is support and opportunity for younger professionals to enter the field and to flourish in their careers. Having a strong and vibrant professional Society is a significant part of that mentorship opportunity.

8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
I am responsible for the length of the Cook GIFT catheter (remember those?). When GIFT was first introduced in 1985, the oocyte retrieval and cannulation of the oviducts was achieved via laparotomy, but Dr David Molloy in Melbourne thought that it could be achieved laparoscopically, and so this became the subject of his MD research thesis. I was assigned the responsibility for the lab side. Cook made a range of prototype catheters for this project, and the length we settled on was the one that let me keep my arm at the most comfortable angle while Dr Molloy accessed the ampulla. It was a very exciting time, and we held a press conference when 3 of the first 7 patients became pregnant.

unnamed (1)Why I’m writing about the history of Reproductive Medicine in Canada

“In order for us to truly appreciate where we are today, we must first understand from where we have come”.

With that thought in mind and spurred on by the research that I did in preparing a lecture that I was asked to deliver to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Toronto on the “History of Reproductive Medicine in Canada”, I decided it was time to actually chronicle some of this information. Canada has a rich heritage in the field of Reproductive Medicine and all Canadians who work in the field should have an appreciation for and be proud of what has led us to where we are today.

There are so many things we do on a daily basis that we take for granted. We induce ovulation with clomiphene, letrozole and gonadotropins. Who started these treatments in Canada? We do laparoscopies and hysteroscopies every day in clinical practice. What role did Canadians play in promoting the development of these procedures? What does anyone in Canada who has been in practice for less than 20 years know about microsurgery in Gynecology and what Canadian is known as the pioneer of tubal microsurgery (among many other things).

Did you ever wonder where the first IVF clinic in Canada was located and who started it? Which clinic had the first IVF pregnancy and live birth in Canada?

What was it like in the “old days”?

These and so many other facts about our Specialty of Reproductive Medicine are known to so very few. It’s time we all took a moment to learn about how we got to where we are and be proud of being an REI in Canada and pay tribute to those individuals who made our specialty what it is today.

I hope the next few months will finally see this work come to fruition.

Al Yuzpe

unnamed (2)1) What got you interested in the field of fertility
The field of reproduction captured my attention during my undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph: Dr. John Walton (now retired) was a fantastic lecturer, who taught us all about the reproductive management of cattle and sheep. I was fascinated by the physiology of reproduction, and continue to be, to this day.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
I am currently completing my PhD thesis. A typical day for me can involve educating and recruiting patients for research, processing samples, planning and conducting experiments, attending seminars, and preparing for various presentations and meetings. My life as a graduate student has been very dynamic, and my learning curve, exponential!

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
In science, it is imperative to develop a deep expertise in the subject you are investigating — everything that makes its way into the literature becomes a piece of our collective human knowledge. On the other hand, there is an unspoken race to publish that drives progress. As a young scientist, I find it a challenge to establish a healthy balance between the two.

4) What keeps you going?
I love to learn about biology. There is so much to know, and many skills to develop. Science challenges my critical thinking and creativity, so I find it very exciting despite the intrinsic fall backs.

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
CFAS brings together knowledge from a range of experts, all of whom play a key role in this field: from the challenges faced by front line staff in admin and nursing, to counsellors, geneticists, embryologists, andrologists, and physicians. I often wish that I could clone myself so that I could attend all the SIGs.

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
The CFAS has provided me with an annual opportunity to share my work at a national level. It’s so inspiring to see the wealth of expertise come together, and meet all the interesting people who work every day in this field.

7) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
I am an avid equestrian! I’d be happy to talk horses with anyone who might also be, in the CFAS community.

unnamed (3)1) What got you interested in the field of fertility
I grew up very close to an older cousin of mine suffering from infertility and ultimately achieving successful pregnancies and being able to fulfill her dream of motherhood. Her emotional distress had an impact on me as we pen-paled throughout my teens (in the 90s!) and I witnessed her go through the different stages of turmoil that is infertility. In my first year of medical school I fell in love with reproductive biology and knew from then on that I wanted to become an REI. I had the chance to do an elective rotation early on at Cornell Centre for Reproductive Medicine and was hooked.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
It depends on the day! I have narrowed down my practice to Infertility and general gynaecology, most REIs in Quebec also continuing obstetrics. A regular day in REI consists of patient monitoring for IUI and IVF, egg retrievals and embryo transfers, mid-day meeting to go over current IVF cycles and blood test results, then consultations and follow-up visits in the afternoon.

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
The biggest difficulty right now is that under the new Quebec law 20, many couples who were patients can no longer afford to go through IVF, and it has been heartbreaking for me to see them come back and say, thank you but we will not be able to continue this process. We fought very hard to keep the government-funded ART program in Quebec, and proposed a way to maintain the program while limiting its costs, but to no avail. I hope the Association des Couples Infertiles du Quebec and professionals in the field will have their voices heard in the future to bring back a very successful program.

4) What keeps you going?
I love the work that I do! I find every day fulfilling and I work with an amazing group of professionals.

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
CFAS provides a chance to engage in our ever-growing field. It is exciting to be a part of a field of science that is constantly evolving. What I like about going to our annual meeting is that not only is it intellectually stimulating, but I find it intimate enough to be able to mingle with colleagues across the country.

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
There are many ways to get involved in CFAS through the different SIGs, and the door is always open for people to be involved as little or as much as they want. There are many events, workshops etc. throughout the year that allow for professional growth opportunities.

7) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
It feels great to get involved in our society. You really feel a sense of community engaging with other people in the profession and working towards common goals. CFAS has allowed me personally to get involved in a cause I am passionate about, which in fertility preservation for cancer patients. In our SIG, we strive to further the development of the field of oncofertility in Canada, which is a relatively new field. I have enjoyed learning from my colleagues in other provinces and exchanging ideas with them. I hope to continue to volunteer with the society throughout my career.

8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
I am the eldest of five kids.

unnamed1) What got you interested in the field of fertility
I first started working at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) Fertility Clinic in July 1994. I had been working for three years in the Tissue Typing lab as part of the Multi-Organ Transplant Service, which was very rewarding work but it required lengthy call back for organ donor cross-matches. We had also just started our family, and I began to feel like I was never home, or at least awake, at the same time as everyone else. So, when the opportunity to apply for a position in the IVF program came up, I jumped on it, knowing that there would still be weekend work, but not the same type of call back. Fortunately, the Lab Director at the time felt that I possessed enough of the skills required and the rest is history – I have been with the program at LHSC ever since.

2) Describe a regular day in your shoes
I perform lab work most of the time! My work day is probably very similar to most embryologists. As one of four embryologists in our lab, my day at work begins with the usual duties associated with our profession – equipment monitoring, fertilization checks, embryo grading, oocyte retrievals, embryo transfers, and cryopreservation etc. – all of the regular tasks. I also log all of the lab data for the IVF patients, enter this to data bases, participate in patient rounds…. again, the usual stuff.

3) What’s the biggest difficulty that you encounter?
The biggest difficulty that I encounter is delegating tasks. It’s not that I feel that I am the only one who can do the job, I just don’t like asking for help or telling people what to do. But I have learned that it is worth it to try and make that effort, and most people are appreciative for the opportunity to take on a task.

4) What keeps you going?
I would say that the diversity in the work that I do every day is what keeps me going – never a dull moment! I don’t find it difficult to fill my day. It also really helps that I work with a great group of people!

5) What do you like most about the CFAS?
What I like the most about CFAS is that, especially now and over the past couple of years, the organization is really trying hard to bring something of value to each of its members. In my opinion, membership with the CFAS has had a bit of a bad rap in the past, and perhaps deservedly so, with the perception being that membership has little to offer aside from a discounted rate for registration to the annual meeting. That is changing.

6) How does the CFAS provide value to your professional development?
There are webinars, seminars, summits, courses and other opportunities that are important to us as ART professionals for our professional growth, in addition to the annual meetings. Of course, I am also very biased towards the support and assistance that CFAS has provided for the Certification Program of ART Professionals.

7) Why do you volunteer your time to the Society? What’s in it for you?
I actually nominated myself for a position on the executive 5 years ago, thinking that it would be a great way to learn more about CFAS and provide me with some professional development opportunities that I may not have had access to at LHSC. However, I did not volunteer for the Chair position, quite the opposite in fact – I was very apprehensive when I was asked to become co chair, which would lead to the chair position the following year, as I felt that I did not have what I considered to be the educational requirements for the position. But I am fairly organized and task driven, and what I have utilized over the past year and a half as chair is the adage that many hands make light work, and the resources that you need to assist you are available, starting with the SIG executive and the CFAS administrative office then going outwards from there. I have learned A LOT, have asked more than a lot of questions, and have met many wonderful people in our field that I may not have had I not been involved with the CFAS. That alone is very special.

8) Tell us something most people don’t know about you
Something that most people don’t know about me is that I am an identical twin – my sister is six minutes older than I am and my mother didn’t know she was carrying twins until she delivered us – imagine that.