Fertility 2015

There was a wonderful feeling of excitement at the Fertility 2015 Meeting that took place in Birmingham just after New Year.

Once again, this three-day meeting brought together scientists, nurses, counsellors and clinicians, combining the efforts of the three main fertility societies in the UK, namely the British Fertility Society (BFS), the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) and the Society for Reproduction and Fertility (SRF).

The meeting started with the Bob Edwards Memorial Lecture given by Sue Avery from Birmingham Women’s Hospital, with whom I worked in the early days of IVF. She was then an embryologist in London at the Bourne Hallam Clinic, which was supervised by Bob Edwards himself. In fact, Sue was the last scientist to have a PhD supervised by Bob, who really was the ‘father figure’ of our field.

It was interesting that one of the last lectures of the meeting was given by Sir Richard Gardner, Emeritus Professor from the universities of Oxford and York, who also worked with Bob Edwards and was one of his first PhD students. He showed us some very old black and white photos of blastocyst development and gave us an insight into the early days of the scientific exploration of embryology.

Throughout the meeting, there was a mixture of lectures by clinicians, scientists and embryologists. For me, the lecture given by Sarah Martins da Silva from Dundee, in which she dispelled some of the myths on the assessment of male factor infertility, was a highlight. Her lecture was entitled ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, and was introduced by the soundtrack from the film of the same name! Scott Nelson also gave a fantastic talk on the assessment of ovarian reserve and brought us up to date with the latest science.

One of the downsides of such meetings is there’s so much to see and hear. Three sessions, with tantalising titles, ran concurrently. Inevitably one has to be selective.

Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya from Aberdeen gave an outstanding talk on the evidence base for assisted reproduction technologies in the ACE distinguished lecture.

Another highlight for me was the debate on the final day between Simon Fishel from the Care Fertility Clinic and Raj Mathur from Manchester on the issue of: ‘This house believes patients should be offered any treatment they wish’. Both gave stimulating and persuasive arguments. While Raj Mathur won the debate, there is no doubt that Simon Fishel presented some challenging and insightful thoughts.

It was my great honour during the course of the meeting to assume the Chair of the British Fertility Society, taking over from Allan Pacey who has done a tremendous job over the last three years. I very much look forward to taking the helm and steering the BFS through the next three years and we have some exciting times ahead.

There is always a great feeling of collaboration between the multi-disciplinary groups within the field of reproductive medicine, and it was our strong feeling at the end of this meeting that rather than every two years, this should become an annual event.

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