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ASRM 2015: Looking Back and Moving Ahead “We Could Always Do More and Do Better”

By David Kreiner MD

October 18th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

It was fitting that this year’s national infertility meeting, the ASRM was held in Baltimore, the city where the recently deceased Dr. Howard W. Jones Jr. first trained and rose to prominence in the field of reproductive medicine.  In the 1950′s and during his career at Johns Hopkins, he was involved in the controversial biopsy of cervical cancer patient, Henrietta Lacks, which led to the most widely utilized and researched cell line of all time.  Thereafter, he became an expert in genetic disorders and reproductive developmental issues that led to his opening the first transgender surgery clinic.  Remarkably, however, “Dr. Howard” (as we students called him) is best known for work he performed after his retirement from Hopkins when he moved to Norfolk and started the first IVF clinic in the Western Hemisphere resulting in the birth of the country’s first IVF baby, Elizabeth Carr, in 1981.

 

My first ASRM (called the American Fertility Society at the time) meeting in 1983 was a showcase of this brand new technology of IVF despite a success of 10% in the best clinics. Reproductive surgery was still more successful than IVF so there were presentations by the premier microsurgeons, laparoscopists and hysteroscopists who were demonstrating the latest advances that were becoming available as instrumentation had improved and laser had become a tool of the reproductive surgeon.  IVF was performed laparoscopically and ovarian stimulations were being performed with some variation of human menopausal gonadotropin, Pergonol, derived from the urine of menopausal women and Clomid.

 

In 2015, we reviewed the impact of social media in the opening presidential lecture urging members of the Reproductive Science community to spread the word about reproductive technology advances and utilize social media tools to educate the public.

 

In this meeting, it was now recognized that the LGBT community needed to become a special interest group within the ASRM with focus on alternative family-building that was available not just to lesbian couples but to gay male couples and transgenders.

 

With the successful fertilization and subsequent pregnancies achieved through egg freezing, fertility preservation for women undergoing cancer treatment, gender reassignment or aging prior to a time when they are ready for motherhood is now available. The technology of egg freezing thrusts upon women important new options to be considered (often on an urgent basis) when preparing for chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy or surgery… or simply before aging does irreversible damage to one’s fertility.

 

There was an Acupuncture symposium that presented research demonstrating improved success with IVF when utilized twice a week for at least 4-5 weeks prior to retrieval, before and after transfer.  The use of the mild male hormone, DHEA, was discussed in yet another symposium as a potential benefit to patients with diminished ovarian reserve to optimize number of eggs and embryos and improve pregnancy rates.

 

Elective freezing of embryos to transfer in a non-stimulated cycle and embryo-banking combined with complete genomic sequencing of the embryos to selectively transfer only healthy embryos has demonstrated improved success of IVF. And aside from the increased cost and time involved, it appears to be the ideal approach to IVF today.

 

I think Dr. Howard would be happy with these developments in the field and the direction the society is going both towards a more efficient and safer treatment and to widening its scope to be inclusive of the LGBT community.  Though typical of Dr. Howard, he always thought we could do more and better.  Weeks before his death, he called my friend and former fellow, “Richard S”.  He complemented him on his great work but complained to Richard that he wasn’t measuring some hormone or factor that Dr. Howard thought needed to be checked in Richard’s research…

We have come a long way in the 32 years that I have been active in ASRM. I’m proud that Long Island IVF has always been on the cutting edge of reproductive medical technology with programs and practices already existing for this year’s most popular ASRM topics, including social media, LGBT-focused and friendly alternative family-building, egg-freezing, complete genomic sequencing aka PGS (pre-embryo genetic screening), and acupuncture. Let it never be said that the work is done and that we are satisfied with the status quo.  As Dr. Howard would say, “we could always do more and do better”.

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Have you considered using any of these latest technologies or programs in your family-building plans?

 

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