It’s World Embryologist Day so who better to hear from than Associate Professor Cecilia Sjoblom, Scientific Director at the Westmead Fertility Centre located at Westmead Hospital.
Cecilia arrived in Australia from Sweden in 2009 when she was recruited to help the assisted reproductive technology (ART) unit.
Cecilia loves her job and feels it is highly rewarding to play a part in a patient’s fertility journey.
On Friday evening while relaxing after work, Cecilia received a photo from a patient of their new baby with the words ‘Cecilia, I have never met you, but you are a part of our family’.
“That is an amazing message to receive,” Cecilia said.
“My team and I try our best to support our patients and to assist them achieve their dream of having a baby so to get that type of message – to be told you’re part of someone’s family – is very satisfying… plus… every baby is adorable.”
July 25 was chosen as World Embryologist Day because it’s the birthday of Louise Brown, the first baby born through in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Westmead Fertility Centre has a special significance of its own as it is one of the oldest established IVF units in Australia.
Cecilia said “a number of people who work in the IVF sector in New South Wales today have trained at some point with our unit at Westmead and it was a group of gynaecologists and endocrinologists here – pioneers – that wanted the hospital to make the technology available at the very beginning, and it’s been running since then”.
Not only does Westmead Fertility Centre have rich history, its reputation and strength also lay in the local and international experience it offers with experts in the team from Australia, Britain, Egypt and Turkey.
Cecilia said the team is put together in a way that “brings experience from every corner of the world to help our patients”.
One of the biggest misconceptions Cecilia has brought to the forefront when educating on ART is that a lot of patients believe it is the doctor alone who is responsible for the success of treatment.
“While the input from the fertility specialist in an IVF cycle is critically important, the success of the cycle is highly dependent in the set-up of the embryology laboratory and the training of the team that work in there,” Cecilia said.
“It doesn’t matter if your doctor is the best in the world, if they work alongside a laboratory set-up that doesn’t quite know what they’re doing, then you’re not going to get your patients pregnant.”
Every small detail counts when it comes to the embryology laboratory processes with Cecilia saying, “if I get delayed by 45 seconds in a handling process the embryo could get stressed and this affects the outcome”.
If the temperature changes during my handling by as little as 0.3 degrees you could end up with an impact on the embryo’s chromosomes, so it’s very much down to the hands that are getting the eggs the minute they come out in the aspiration needle.”
The wealth of information between the teams who look after the patients, along with the strong collaboration between Westmead Hospital and Westmead Fertility Centre is something Cecilia says delivers an extremely low out-of-pocket service – with extremely good outcomes for patients – which could never have happened without this strong working relationship fostered over many years.