Tell us about your role at Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM)?
I am the co-IVF director co-founder of PCRM. Along with Dr. Jeff Roberts, who is also co-IVF director, and Dr. Ken Seethram, who is the Facility Director and spearheading our first trimester screening program, we are responsible for the activities and quality of medical care at PCRM.
What are your long term goals?
Our long-term goals are to develop PCRM into a comprehensive women’s health clinic, focusing on fertility, early pregnancy care, and minimally invasive surgery. We hope to provide most (if not all) of this care within PCRM, providing continuity, privacy, and a level of comfort and familiarity for the patient by allowing them to receive this care within one facility.
What were the biggest challenges for you during the launch of Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine (PCRM)?
From the time that PCRM was conceptualized between myself, Dr. Roberts, and Dr. Seethram, to the time that the facility was opened, was less than 13 months. This was conceptualized while Dr. Roberts was living in Rhode Island, myself in Texas, and Dr. Seethram in Burnaby. The challenge in designing and building the facility (with the expert assistance of Dr. David Mortimer in IVF laboratory design), finding the best individuals (nursing staff, IVF laboratory scientists, administrative staff), and working through the new regulatory framework governing ART clinics was immense. Managing to complete this within the period of one year was a very daunting task. Looking back on this process, we feel very fortunate to have found some very experienced and dedicated individuals to work with us in developing PCRM into a first-class facility.
Tell us about the philosophy, mission and vision of your centre.
Our philosophy is that we believe that our clients deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and privacy. We provide our patients with compassionate and individualized care by combining advanced reproductive technologies with a supportive, tranquil environment. At all times, we consider patients to be our top priority and hold ourselves accountable to them and their needs at every stage of care. Our mission is to provide world class excellence in the delivery of fertility treatment, early pregnancy screening, and reproductive care. Our vision is to provide comprehensive care with respect for our patients, and sustain the highest achievable outcomes.
Inevitably, prospective clients ask about success rates. How does a newer facility handle that question?
This is a question that we face everyday as a new facility. We have now had some patients proceed through IVF treatment. While the early success rates have been great, we still do not have the volume of patients or the long history at this facility. So while we cannot provide information as to our history of success rates, we can provide the patients with the information that we have developed an IVF laboratory with the highest air-quality standards, recruited some of the best and experienced IVF scientists, and have a very experienced Scientific Director in Dr. Sharon Mortimer, and Lab designer in Dr. David Mortimer. Additionally, Dr. Roberts and myself have practiced and trained at some very successful IVF programs in the USA (Dr. Roberts trained at Cornell in New York, one of the most respected IVF programs in the world). We have found that when patients have a chance to see the facility and meet the team at PCRM, any questions or concerns that they may have about the facility are easily addressed.
You have a number of publications to your credit. Is there one that stands out as the most satisfying to you?
The paper entitled “The post-menopausal ovary displays a unique pattern of steroidogenic enzyme expression” would be my most satisfying publication, as this will form my thesis for my American Board certification in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. This is the project that I was the most involved in the research, and formed the basis of my basic science research experience in fellowship training.
You completed a three-year fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Tell us about that experience.
This was an academically productive experience, as well as an opportunity to develop many wonderful personal and professional relationships. My two mentors, Dr. Bruce Carr, who is the director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) at the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), and Dr. Kevin Doody, who is the IVF director at the Center for Assisted Reproduction, in Dallas, Texas, both played large parts in my fellowship training. UT Southwestern Medical Center does not have the same notoriety as other medical centers or institutions in the USA (Harvard and Yale, for example). However, there are four Nobel laureates on faculty there, more than any other medical center in the USA, and the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (Alfred Gilman), is also a Nobel laureate.
Who do you look up to in the industry as being the best of the best? Perhaps someone who has made major contributions to your field - past or present?
I am a product of my experiences. That being said, I admire the career paths of my two mentors, Dr. Bruce Carr and Dr. Kevin Doody. Dr. Carr has been the fellowship director at UT Southwestern for approximately 20 years, and has trained many IVF directors and academic division directors. He has published hundreds of articles, is the editor of his own textbook on reproductive medicine, and has been very involved in the academic development and advancement of this specialty. Dr. Kevin Doody is both a skilled clinician, as well as a bright academician who has a compassionate bedside manner as well as a keen sense for clinical decision making. I have tried to emulate these traits in my practice.
What is your favorite book or piece of literature relating to reproductive medicine? One that every student of your field should read.
Since I am still in contact with my fellowship director, and he is the director of the division of REI at ABOG, I will have to say Essential Reproductive Medicine, by Carr, Blackwell, and Azziz.
What do you see as the next potential breakthrough in IVF/ART?
While there is much hype and media surrounding oocyte (egg) freezing, we are not yet at a stage where this can be a viable option for elective fertility preservation for individuals desiring delayed childbearing. As researchers continue to refine their freezing protocols, I see this as a possible option within the next 5-10 years.
What is the most challenging issue you see your industry facing in the years ahead?
I believe that the most challenging issues that our profession faces in the coming years is the continued reduction of multiple births in ART treatments. Many European countries have legislated single embryo transfer (SET) for IVF procedures. However, these procedures are also insured through government health care. As a result, the slightly lower pregnancy rates that occur with SET compared to double embryo transfer (DET), become more acceptable to the patient, as they are not facing an undue financial hardship as a result of this policy.
When you're not at work or dealing with industry activities what do you do for yourself? Hobbies, interests?
The start of PCRM has left little time to pursue my other interests, but I am looking forward to exploring the mountain bike trails of the Lower Mainland in the coming months.
Our interview with Jon Havelock
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