Inside Reproductive Health, Ep 26

Passing the IVF Lab Torch: Is the Reluctance to Do So Causing Scarcity? An Interview with Shaun Reed

In this episode, host Griffin Jones chats with embryologist Shaun Reed. As the Embryology Technical Supervisor at Utah Fertility Center, Reed offers a unique perspective on one of the more mysterious parts of any fertility clinic: the lab. Jones and Reed discuss the future of embryology, the differences between millennials and the generations that came before, and Reed’s concerns about the lack of interest in innovation.

Griffin Jones: Today, I’m joined by Shaun Reed. Shaun is an embryologist. He is the Embryology Technical Supervisor at Utah Fertility Center. He has his masters in embryology and andrology that he completed at Eastern Virginia Medical School. He’s been an embryologist for five years. We’re gonna talk about the scarcity of embryologists, if that’s generational, what that job landscape is, and what that means for the field, including success rates. Personally, Shaun has a five-year-old daughter who’s rad, who’s his best friend. I can hear the audible “awwwwws” at that. Shaun Reed, welcome to Inside Reproductive Health.

Shaun Reed: Aw, thanks, thanks for having me.

GJ: Well, it’s cool that you’re on, because to be honest, you’re the first guest we’ve had, and this might be episode 30 by the time this comes— we’ve done at least 20— and I haven’t had a single guest from the lab on. So… long overdue! I have to admit that I neglect the lab in a lot of ways, in the content that we do, our job is to bring patients in and to keep them. That’s what our job is-- to help practices acquire and retain patients and so the lab is a huge part of that, because if there wasn’t a successful lab behind it, there wouldn’t be those two functions to fulfill. But the nature of what you do isn’t immediate in that, or at least immediately visible, and so we neglect it a lot. Do you feel that way in other ways, that… and I’m saying this because you are a red-headed man… is the IVF lab the red-headed stepchild sometimes of the practice?

SR: That’s a great way to put it… yeah, I think that is an issue that a lot of clinics have faced, and when I go to conferences, you hear a lot of those-- the same issues coming up, where your lab is carrying out very vital functions for your clinic, for the success of your clinic, and… I mean, we’re kind of the wizards that are hiding behind the curtain. People don’t really see what we’re doing throughout the day. Patients don’t see us, your clinic staff probably doesn’t see us very much, except for the occasional time they poke their heads in with a problem or a question, and so, yeah, we’re in there working really hard all day long, and then if you’re not really being seen, it’s gonna kind of hurt your feelings a little. I think that’s human nature.

GJ: It’s fascinating, because without the lab, there is no IVF, there is no what we do. But it isn’t the same thing as interfacing with the patients every single day, and so sometimes it feels like it can be siloed, even though it is inherent, and essentially the core of everything that we do in ART, and I wanna talk a bit about the people that are in these roles, and this is where I really found our conversations to be interesting, because… when you talk to electricians or plumbers or anybody in the skilled trades, let’s just call it the skilled trades as a general blanket category, that group is older in age and largely closer to retirement. And it’s already a group that, when we’re talking about electricians, plumbers, heavy machine operators, they’re already in demand relative to supply and demand. And I had never considered that for the IVF lab until I talked to you. Is it the same generational dynamic? Talk to us a little bit about, one, just the scarcity of good embryologists, relative demand of how supply is growing, relative to how quickly demand is growing, and are we seeing a similar dynamic that we are in the skilled trades, or is it different?

SR: Yeah, that’s a really interesting topic, I think. One caveat is that I’ve only worked at one place-- I’ve only worked at Utah Fertility Center. So my experience, my personal experience, has only been there. Utah Fertility Center has only been open for seven years or so, so it’s younger, it's newer, so the staff- the lab staff-- is younger. I think every generation always thinks the next generation is gonna be the one that blows up the world and they’re terrible, they’re awful, whatever, but I think that because of the technological boom in the last twenty years, there’s a really big generational gap, from let’s say our grandparents and parents to the millennial generation. Millennials, they speak a whole other language. It’s like a whole different organization that they understand, and when I’ve talked to other embryologists from other labs, and even embryologists that we’ve hired from other labs, I do think that generational gap is a problem. First off, I totally respect the first generation of embryologists. IVF has only been around for 40 years, that’s still really young. But the OGs of IVF-- I like to call them the original gangsters-- they did a great job of laying the foundation of IVF. They got the technology to where it’s at now, where the success is really good. But it seems like in some labs, passing that flame on to the next generation… there’s a bit of resistance. And I don’t know if it’s because labs are just generally really busy and it’s hard to train new people, or if it’s a bit of a stubborn thing? I’ve heard of other labs where when they hire new people on, the training just takes forever. And you’re asking, is there a big demand? There’s a huge demand for embryologists. Fertility’s becoming more and more… I don’t want to use the word popular, but it’s just becoming more mainstream, more available, and clinics want to grow. And like you’re saying, you said it, I didn’t, the lab is insanely important to the success of the clinic. If the clinic wants to grow, you have to grow your lab.

GJ: Let’s pretend that this isn’t even generational in passing the torch yet, though we definitely want to have that conversation. If it’s just how demand for services is growing, and let’s pretend the OGs or maybe it’s the second generation that is there now, but let’s pretend they’re not retiring, even if that isn’t the case, is there still a demand issue that we’re not catching up with in terms of filling the need in the lab for positions?

SR: I think it’s very possible. I think that one of the big topics that have become popular at conferences- just at PCRS a couple of weeks ago, one of the big questions is how do we keep our lab staff? How do we keep them happy? Because there is such a demand-- in the bigger cities, where there’s lots of clinics, if you’re not keeping your embryologists happy, they’ll go elsewhere. They’ve gotta find somewhere else. But are there a lot of undergrads who are coming out and want to go into embryology? I don’t know. That’s something that I think is interesting. This profession, it’s… it’s pretty obscure, like, it’s pretty random. When I tell people I’m an embryologist, I’m probably the first embryologist they’ve ever met, y’know?

GJ: So you do think that the issue of being able to fill the positions is largely tied into this passing of the torch generationally?

SR: Yeah.

GJ: Where’s the-- you said there’s a resistance to this torch being passed. Where is the resistance? Is it resistance in the generation that is the established generation passing the torch to incoming embryologist, or is it a reluctance of incoming embryologists to be able to embrace the process and the work?

SR: I don’t know. I don’t know if we want to get so much into the...the millennial issue. I think for the most part, labs are staffed with excellent embryologists. When I meet embryologists form other places, they’re excellent and they’re passionate about what they do. Where I work, the older generation of embryologists have been so good at training me and they’re still passionate about the field and talking about the exciting new things, but my guess is that some places when they get these really young embryologists that come in and they don’t see that passion, they may not be as willing to pass on that flame, pass on that knowledge. I mean, we gotta go there-- millennials, they aren’t as passionate about what they do. Yeah.

GJ: How old are you?

SR: 31. I’m a millennial. And that’s why for so long I’ve been so hesitant to jump on the train of bashing millennials, because I am one. But even millenials that are five years younger than I am, they’re a different generation. And there are definitely pros to them-- I’m not gonna say it’s all bad. But what I’ve observed with them, is it seems to me that it’s more important to them that what they’re doing SEEMS interesting to other people than they are actually interested in what they’re doing. And that presents a problem in all professions, like, fertility requires a lot of dedication in every aspect. On the clinical side, in the lab side, you really have to put in the time to learn it all and be good at it, and while you’re doing it, it requires a lot of effort, a lot of hard work. And so you get a millennial in there that… you know it’s kind of more important to them to tell people that they’re an embryologist and they do really cool work than they are actually interested in the work. Like I was saying, the OGs of IVF, they understand the science. They understand the cryobiology behind vitrification. I wonder if you ask some of the younger embryologists, how does vitrification work? They might start rattling off the protocol, “Well, you put it in this for five minutes, in this for eight, then it goes in the liquid nitrogen.” And that’s like, ok, cool, but do you know the actual biology behind vitrification? They may not know the answer, and that’s where I think you kind of get that generational gap and who’s gonna carry the flame? Where’s the innovation gonna come from in the future?

GJ: If I’m understanding correctly, is your hypothesis that the established generation of embryologists have always been so motivated by the discovery and the advancement of the science that they would understand the cryobiology behind vitrification from the beginning of their career, or in their case, as vitrification was developed, just because that’s where they’re coming from? They’re coming from this place of discovering advancement? And are you saying that the incoming embryologists don’t… not because they haven't gotten there yet, but because they’re more in it to fill the position because that’s what they do and maybe even have more appearance motivation. I guess what I’m trying to ask is how much of it is just because they don’t know the cryobiology behind vitrification or the science behind other aspects of the lab simply because they’re at the beginning of their career versus the [unintelligible] of the persona?

SR: It’s probably that the younger generation can kind of relax more because the first generation of embryologists did such a good job of laying that foundation. The first generation of embryologists, they had to constantly be thinking of ways to improve, to get better success rates. For a long time, they did slow freezing, then they advanced to vitrification. And that’s people… that’s scientists in the lab trying to find ways to be better. Now, with vitrification, the survival of embryos from freezing and thawing is like 90+ percent. There isn’t much of a need to think, oh, how can I improve this? It’s really dang good right now! The next generation can kind of come in and rest on that. Hey, the protocol’s great, vitrification’s great. Why do I need to sit down and read some boring textbook about cryobiology when I can learn the protocol in a couple of weeks and be really good at freezing embryos?

GJ: Sure, but… that would be to say, if that’s the case of when something’s extremely efficient that that is a deterrent to human advancement. We wouldn’t have developed faster modes of transportation or better modes of communication, it seems that any standard of technology for a generation is heads and shoulders better than what it was for the previous generation, almost every category. If that alone were a means to quell human motivation, then we wouldn’t be advancing any further. Do you see a lack of.. Do you think that is the reason, if there is a complacency, that’s the reason? Well, vitrification has already gotten us to 90% or better rates as opposed to looking at all of the other things that could be solved in the lab in terms of efficiencies or anything else?

SR: Yeah. I don’t know. That’s where I’d like to… it’s interesting that this is getting talked about more at conferences… how this next generation… how are we….

GJ:Like if I asked you ten problems in the lab, and you and I spent the afternoon, we could find ten problems, yeah?

SR: Yeah.

GJ: So isn’t there just the natural human pursuit to say, I want to solve one of these, or I think we could solve one of these, or bringing the discussion to rally around a few of these points until they do get solved and then we have more problems to solve.

SR: Yeah. I guess the question would be, are there embryologists coming in that are capable of solving those problems, too. Because the first generation, a lot of them did get advanced degrees, masters and phDs, to be an embryologist you really only need a bachelor’s degree with enough credits in biology. And that’s where I was talking about because they don’t understand the basics of the science-- even if they did see the problem, they might not be capable of figuring it out and then proving those issues.

GJ: Let’s unpack the culture of-- the generational culture a little bit more. Because I think you and I are in a unique position to do that. Because we’ve been in our field for a little bit, we’re still on the younger half of the spectrum, and so we’ve seen generational attitudes towards us. We are no longer the youngest. And I think this will be useful to explore this a little bit, because you mentioned that even the millennials that are five years younger are different than those that are the older half-- let’s call us the older half of millennials. I’m 33, you’re 31. Let’s say we’ve got an older half and a younger half. Is the cultural difference that great, in your opinion? Or again, is it just age and inexperience. How much of it is a generational culture, and how much of it is simply the time that they’ve been around?

SR: Yeah. Man, I really think it’s a totally different culture. I think… I blame social media. I think social media has, like, rotted people’s brains. Probably two years ago, I had my first big experience with like the millennial millennial-- the younger. I went to this guy’s birthday party. I knew, like, two people who were going to be there. And I was like, sure, I’ll go to this party, I”m always down to make new friends. It was this fiesta-themed birthday party. Everyone got there, and it was a lot of fun at first. Everyone was wearing fake mustaches, and drinking tequila, and it was a great time. And everyone had their phones out-- which, like, that's normal. People are taking videos. And girls were like, oh, this song’s coming on, we’re about to do something really spontaneous, take a video of us. Then after about an hour or so, the mood switched. It kind of got quieter and everyone was on their phones. They were doing the filters, putting the funny comments on their videos, and then posting on Snapchat, Instagram stories, whatever it was. And then, like an hour and a half in, the party DIED. Like 70% of the people just left. The guy’s own sister left without saying goodbye. He was like, hey, where’s my sister? And everybody was like, oh, she left, man. It blew my mind-- everyone-- they were really just there to post on social media. I mean, I’m sure there was a part of it where they were there and they had a good time, but the number one goal was to look interesting that night to their followers on Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it was. And that’s where it’s like… wow… I can’t even connect… people who are, like, five years younger! That’s not that much younger! It’s so much more than just, oh, I don’t understand what music you guys listen to. It’s like, honestly, I can’t be in the same room… they’re weird. They’re really weird.

GJ: I don’t see how that’s not happening among our cohort of the older millennials, and frankly, among Generation X-ers and the fastest-growing group of selfie-takers is 50 year old women.

SR: *laughs*

GR: I wanna drive this a little bit more, because I remember being at the EIVF conference a few years ago, and there was a speaker that was talking about millennials, and he was talking about a lot of the things that you were talking about, and the jokes about man-buns, and high ceilings and fancy drinks, et cetera. And everyone’s laughing and nodding in agreement. And I walk around the room, and I”m just counting, while the speaker’s talking, and after the speaker was done, I said, ok, so everybody’s laughing and nodding while we’re talking about social media and the cell phone addictions. There’s 140 people in this room. 124 of you have your cell phones in front of you on the desk. And so I really want to… I just think that we have to talk about when we assign something as, ok, this is something that they do. And I do not discount that as one gets younger, cell phone addiction could even be more severe. Or different behaviors could be more prominent. But I just think it’s so prominent among older people, I guess, which we’re now considering ourselves among, that I just think it’s remiss to say that it’s something they’re doing. I think that there’s so much more leadership required from our end.

SR: I remember back in, like, 2006 or 2007 when Facebook was really starting to get popular? I, like, had this thought where I was like, you know what? This is becoming kind of a weird thing that people are really getting obsessed with. I think if I can somewhat separate myself from this, I think I stand a chance of really standing out amongst my peers. And for a long time, I mean, like us, we dabble in social media. We have Facebook, we post on Instagram, and it’s a normal amount, but for the last ten years or so, I’ve really kept my head down and worked hard and focused on getting to where I can be. And now, I’m only 31, technical supervisor of an embryology lab, I feel like I’m becoming successful. And it’s because I made that conscious effort to not buy into those time-wasting things. And like you said, I wonder if, like you got a cell phone at a certain age. If there’s an age cutoff, and that’s where we really see the difference, like, yeah, we all use cell phones, we all use social media, but if you had a cell phone when you were, like, 12 years old or younger? Maybe that’s where, like, this weird psychological thing happens where… yeah, I mean the younger generation, their social media, it’s such a… it’s who they are…

GJ: Shaun, this is exactly what other generations say about us.

SR: Oh, I mean, we’ve got our problems, no doubt. I mean, heck, I’ll grow a man bun!

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GJ: Where I want to be productive of my criticism of generational analysis is we’re getting the best of both worlds, and I think now that we’re in an opportunity to criticize the generation before, of course we’ve criticized the generation after that. And every generation has done that. I think it’s extraordinarily important to always consider… I’ve heard someone say this, which was, every generation is important, but the next generation is always the most important. And to me, that is the answer. If we’re thinking about it really deeply and can apply it in our clinics and labs to properly passing down the torch. And if we criticize superficially, which I don’t think that you’re doing here, I think you’ve got a real concern here, I think I can hear a ton of superficial criticism, I think we neglect that responsibility in passing down the torch. That the next generation is always the most important. And that it’s critical that whoever that next generation is, understands that they’re not the most important. It’s the next generation that’s always the most important. So right now, if the next generation is the millennials, they’re the most important, but really, the most important is Generation Z. But they’re not the most important generation, the most important generation is the one that comes after them. And I think that there needs to be more mentorship, more leadership, and specifically, as long as we’re talking about social media and cell phone addiction, as long as we’re going to have people that have their cell phones up on their desks, and are going to be interrupting their meetings by checking email and checking their social media and even posting their own and then turn around and say, yeah, but this generation does it that much, I think that’s piss-poor [inaudible]. And you and I have been in meetings where I say, ok, this is going away, and I’m holding my cellphone when I say that, and if I’m leading the meeting, I’m setting the culture for the group. And I do it in my company, and I do it on retreats or in other organizations I’m working with, I ask everyone to put the cell phone away, that we’re all present together. And also, relaying every single time we do that, the why behind that. To be able to bring people into an understanding of where they’re seeing the value for themselves as opposed to just, there’s an old guy who doesn’t do the things that we do and just doesn’t get it.

SR: Yeah, that’s interesting. I really like that. Focusing on the next generation. I think it’s important to… we’ve got to light the fire for passion for IVF into the next generation. Something that’s really helped me, in my masters’ program, we’ve learned a lot about the history of IVF. Which, like I said, is only 40 years old, but when you hear, day one, how they started, the years of struggle and struggle, and then how they overcame it, like, that’s where it’s really fascinating. It’s like, man, that is just impressive. It really is super impressive. But I think, yeah, I think the older generation does have an opportunity to pass on that passion, that innovation. Being an embryologist, in my opinion, is the coolest job. It’s so fun, it’s so rewarding. You get to work with your hands, you get to feel successful, like what you do matters. And where I’ve worked, they have done a great job at passing on that passion. I think this country is full of great embryologists. I think all of your clinics out there have great embryologists out there. I don’t know if it’s the nature of the work that just brings in great people, but I swear I haven’t met an embryologist where I was like, Meh, you’re not that cool. They’re all so into it, they come to conferences, and they interact. Even the generation that’s close to retiring, they’re still asking questions like, how can we improve this? Where’s the next technology? Yeah, so, if we can get that, the next generation, the millennial, the Gen Z, to feel that, that passion, that’s.. We have a great opportunity for that. I think millennials, they’re really intelligent, and they have access and they understand technology. You talk about social media and how we… social media is becoming more and more prevalent in the fertility field of interacting with patients and getting that education out there. That’s a huge bonus with millennials and they understand how to use that tool.

GJ: So that passion that you describe, that’s where the focus is for the next generation always being the most important and successfully passing that torch, whether we’re talking about the IVF lab or the clinic or any other part of society. It’s on the focus of that passion and sharing it and educating properly and dropping as much of this superficial criticism as possible. Because every generation has criticized the ones before, every generation has criticized the ones after it. Some of that criticism is valid, and some of it is superficial. And to the extent that we can eliminate the superficial as much as possible and be principled in our criticism, so that we’re focusing on the actual value that is more about passing on that value, the true intrinsic value as opposed to the criticism that someone can’t receive because they think, well, that’s just.. Someone that doesn’t get it. And to the extent that that passion that you described of the wonder of the IVF lab, to the extent that you can view that, Shaun, you’re gonna have good people working for you forever.

SR: Yeah, definitely. That was something at PCRS when we did the-- for the breakout session in the lab, that was one of the great talks from Bill… I think his last name’s Venier, down in San Diego. He talked about how he has, he has 18 embryologists, so big lab, and he says, my turnover rate is really low. And then he gave points about what he does to keep his lab happy. And I think that’s another topic worth diving into, how do you keep your lab staff happy? That can be tricky. I think some clinics may think the lab is kind of full of divas, because they kind of get a lot of complaints from them, but it kind of goes back to what we were saying at the beginning, that your lab is full of wizards behind.. They’re not really seen throughout the day. So clinics are seeing more and more how important it is to validate your lab. To hear the complaints, to hear the problems that they’re having, to keep them happy, because big cities especially, like San Diego and New York where there are lots of clinics within miles of each other, if your embryologists aren’t happy, there’s lots of opportunities everywhere.

GJ: Beyond that, because let’s talk about you saving the IVF lab, Shaun. You, Shaun Reed, are saving the IVF lab for the world, it is as these doctors retire, you’re bringing Generation Z into the IVF lab in a way that they care in a personal and vocational level about advancing the field, how do you do that? I mean, have you been doing it, taking the time to show people, or maybe it’s a question of what really inspires you, so that we’re focusing on that, that this is what people are being educated and brought into so that it becomes something that they couldn’t help but be interested in, if that is where their inclination takes them?

SR: I mean, it’s gold stars and pizza, right? That’s all we want…

GJ: Do we want gold stars and pizza? Some people want gold stars and pizza… a lot of people want gold stars and pizza because that’s universal. But some people actually want to read the book, and some people want to read the book because it’s a really freakin’ good story, and sometimes people want to read the book because it’s been introduced to them in a way where the characters make sense and the plot is relevant and the setting is worthwhile to explore… so what is that for the IVF lab. Because if it’s just keeping people happy with gold stars and pizza, that just means higher salaries and benefits and things that could be applied to any other job, and could therefore be lost to any other job.

SR: Well, I can tell you what has worked for me… what has given me the drive and passion. And that is seeing the patient side. That is something that labs significantly miss out on. When we see patients, they're usually unconscious or they’ve taken a Valium for their transfer. We’re in the room for five minutes. We don’t get to hear their back story. We don’t get to hear their struggle. We’re not in there during the new patient visit. Heck, we don’t even get to be there when they get the phone call that they have a positive or negative HCG. So, I’ve made it a point to expose myself to the patient side. I’ve gotten involved with the infertility resource here in Utah. I’m on the advisory board. The movie.. What was it called… One More Shot? On Netflix? Holy cow, everybody needs to see that movie.

GJ: We just had Maya on the podcast during National Infertility Awareness Week and talked about the [inaudible] thing.

SR: Man. She… that movie is so good because you see that really raw, just rough side of infertility. When, y’know, they’re filming when they get phone calls, like, a negative HCG. The person on the phone call, they gave it and was like, “Ok, have a nice weekend.” And her face was like, are you serious? You just crushed my world. Have a good weekend? Ok, thanks. And that’s a side you just miss out on, especially in the lab. So for me, when I expose myself more to the patient side, that has made me so much better of an embryologist, because on a busy day on the lab side, when all you see is patient names and egg numbers, you’re able to slow down and say, okay, this is so much more than 20 eggs I need to do ICSIs on. This is somebody’s… probably couple year long struggle, pain, finances, fear… and it makes you slow down and always do your best. I think that’s something that’s been really overlooked in clinics is showing your lab staff that, that side of what we’re doing is we are helping people have babies at the end of the day. It’s not just doing ICSIs and freezing embryos, you’re making a huge difference in someone’s life.

GJ: And that is how we pass the torch to the next generation, how the torch is properly passed from any generation that is doing anything that is valuable. And there will always be cultural differences that may impede, that may need to be addressed and mitigated to the extent that we can share that and see the patient side that starting with the why of this is what we’re doing, part of that, as you explained, was done through digital media. You saw that story to that extent to a way that even you as a person that works in the lab but certainly even someone in the clinic wouldn’t be able to see without all of that storytelling power throughout digital media. So, as things are added to our technological repertoire or different social behaviors change, the ones that are important are the ones that communicate the timeless value. The others that aren’t important are the distractions. And as generational leaders, it’s important that we help the next generation discern, and we can only do that if we’re being principled ourselves. And also, if we’re doing it properly, there’s probably things… and if we’re really focusing on the value, there’s probably things that generation does want help with. And acknowledging that, you know what, I know a lot of people want to be cool on Instagram, but this is really what we’re doing here. Take a look at this. And showing them the why exactly as you described it. That takes time. And it takes effort. And I think it’s why torches are often not passed successfully. And because it’s easier to just criticize the next generation superficially, as opposed to discerning this is the superficial, this is the valuable, and I’m gonna take the time to communicate the value, to build the rapport so that the person that I’m passing it to understands that I am not repeating the superficial that they’ve heard a hundred times. That it is in their best interest and it is about a meaningful, lasting value that they would not only want to have passed to them, but to pass on. That’s hard. That’s exactly what you and I are mapping out right here, as opposed to saying, they’re lazy, they’re entitled, they’re… all of those things can be true in a vacuum, but it’s much easier to say that than to go through the hard work of making something last.

SR: Yeah. Yeah, like you said, it’s about taking the time and I think that is a big struggle in IVF labs. Every lab is going to be really busy. And to take the time to train, it can be hard to find that time. That was something that Bill at PCRS talked about. They have days where they block out time for education, where they will instruct their lab staff, or even the clinical side, on how things work. You have to take that conscious effort, take that time, hit pause, and go, all right. Let’s learn some stuff. And that’s where you can really start ingraining in them, hey. We’re making babies here. We’re making human babies. This is important stuff. I think, it doesn’t matter what generation you are, movies like One More Shot, everyone can feel that movie, like, I don’t care who you are, you’re gonna connect with that movie. It’s gonna break your heart. Like it really does, it’s a great movie.

GJ: If it doesn’t melt your soul, you don’t have one.

SR: Exactly.

GJ: What are the stakes if we don’t pass the torch successfully in the IVF lab? Is this something that we are in danger of not being able to have enough personnel to fulfill the services? And/or are clinical success rates in jeopardy if we don’t do this properly.

SR: I think it’s like nature… we’ll always find a way, we’ll always find the lab staff, and I think success rates will always be pretty dang good. Where I worry about is where the innovation is going to come from. Because fertility is become so big, it’s got a lot of focus form more the industry side, and I think a lot of the innovation has come from industry. And that inherently isn’t a bad thing, but it does bring in bias because industry stands to make money off of different new technology or new equipment, and we’ve actually seen that in the recent past with tests that seem to be promising that turns out to not be all that great. The mitochondrial grade, in particular. That’s the one I would talk about. We do PGTA, the embryo biopsy, and then people started to say, well, there’s something else we can look at. We can look at mitochondrial levels and then that will help you pick the best normal embryos to transfer. The problem is that people that were putting out these studies and saying, oh, you gotta be looking at mitochondrial, you gotta do this, this is the next hot thing-- they were the labs that were standing to make money off of this test. And just recently, a few weeks ago, we got an email, I won’t say who, from a lab that was doing this test, and they said, basically, we’ve gotten more results back and it turns out that this test isn’t actually improving outcomes like we had anticipated, so for the time being, we’re gonna discontinue use. So that’s where I worry about where the innovation is gonna come from. This field is aggressively moving forward at all times. And it’s such an exciting field, I think it’s an exciting time to be in it, I think it’s been exciting since day one. I would like to see more of the innovation coming from us little people in the lab, but again, finding time to do that in a busy clinical lab, that’s hard to do.

GJ: How would you want to conclude about what you want to see for the future of the IVF lab?

SR: Whooo. Man, I just feel so passionate about what I do. I love it so much, that I want to be always surrounded by passionate people. That’s why I love going to conferences, because everybody’s passionate about it. I love sitting down, like you said, put the cell phone down and connect with people. To connect with the same problems that we all face, like, hey, we have this problem. And someone goes, hey, we had that problem before, and here’s how we fixed it! And you go, oh, my gosh, that’s GENIUS. We gotta remember it’s about the patients. It’s about the embryos. This field is gonna be… it’s always gonna be successful. I think we’re always gonna have good people in our labs. Love your lab, man, they’re awesome. Trust me.

GJ: And the extent that we can communicate that passion and build rapport and communicate that to incoming generations will always be able to have that success, and I hope that people listening are renewed with a sense of optimism that they’re a part of that, and that that work is meaningful. Shaun, thanks for coming through, and developing this thought process with me, because it’s a complicated one, because it’s an important one. Thanks for coming on Inside Reproductive Health.

SR: Thank you, man. This is great! Thanks!