We are very excited to welcome Pamela Matthews who joins us as one of our amazing experts. As a Senior Embryologist, from Melbourne, Australia, Pam’s experience and knowledge in all matters IVF is exemplary.
Here Pam explains a little on how she became involved with IVF and her journey of 27 years in embryology.
‘I have just got home from an action packed and successful trip to Zimbabwe, as a consultant embryologist and getting back into my work as an IVF courier.
I think of myself as having two lives in very different pursuits.
I had a very Australian upbringing on a farm 200 kms north of Melbourne, Australia, where life revolved around sport, my family included. By the time l was 15, l had established myself as a promising javelin thrower. I moved from the country after high school to do a Science Degree at Melbourne University, which was also where my athletics coach, the legendary Franz Stampfl, was based. While completing my degree, my athletic career became my priority, resulting in an Australian record in the javelin and Australian representation at two World Cups, two World Student Games, the Brisbane Commonwealth games and the Moscow Olympics. In amongst athletics l also competed in and won a World Power Lifting Championship.
In 1989, when it was clear my time as an athlete was over, l searched for a challenging career and found embryology, in what was then a new and controversial branch of medicine.
It was one of the best decisions I have made. It has been an exciting and rewarding career that has taken me all over the World. I was the first embryologist employed at the newly established Melbourne IVF, under the chairmanship of Mr. Ian Johnston, who led the team responsible for the first IVF baby in Australia and the third in the World.
After 6 years, l was looking for more adventure and professional development, and went to work for a year at the Fertilitcentrum, Gothenburg, Sweden, with Dr Matts Wickland, the first person to do ultrasound guided Ovum retrievals.
After the year I was not quite ready to return home and went on to work at Birmingham Women’s Hospital in the UK and then onto Amman, Jordan.
I returned to Melbourne IVF in 1999 and joined the new PGD department, remaining there for the next 11 years. Looking for adventure again, l worked as a locum embryologist in Malmo in Sweden, Haugesund in Norway, Manila and then back to Malmo. With an ageing Mother, Melbourne beckoned again and I took a contract to work on a research project looking at mitochondrial enhancement of oocytes, which lasted for a little over 2 years. During this time l was keen to keep my hand in as an embryologist and I had the opportunity to go to Uganda as a visiting embryologist, which was by far the most challenging and rewarding work l have ever done. On my first visit, along with Belgian IVF specialist Dr. Johan Goiris, we were able to get their first pregnancy, something they had been trying to achieve for many years. To our dismay it was triplets but thankfully three healthy girls were delivered. This still remains the most rewarding work l have done in IVF. There is a whole blog on the difficulties I had to overcome to achieve this.
When my research contract was over l spent 6 months at an IVF clinic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
This was the first clinic in Cambodia and they have excellent outcomes. They too have challenges but they are very thorough and compromised nothing in the building and equipping of the laboratory.
During 2016 Dr. Karin Hammarberg and Dr. Alan Trounson (another IVF pioneer) who have a foundation to assist IVF units in developing countries, contacted me to help establish a new IVF Clinic in Harare, Zimbabwe, lead by Dr Tino Mhlanga.
They are dealing with many challenges unique to their locality. I have had two trips to mentor the Embryologist, Tinei Makurumure, who is rapidly developing into an excellent embryologist. He has had to learn, working largely on his own. Something Embryologist in the rest of the World, who have very rigid training programs over a number of years, could not imagine. They have now had the birth of their first baby and have a number of on going pregnancies.
It is this work in difficult and challenging environments that l enjoy the most.
It requires flexibility, creativity, a thorough knowledge of the basics of IVF and the practical skills to be able to adapt to often very unique and difficult local conditions. Anything can and does happen.
This is a quick outline of my work and I look forward to sharing some of my past and current life adventures and challenges and the world of IVF from an embryologist’s point of view.’
We can’t wait to to read more about Pam’s incredible experiences and knowledge through her column over the coming months. If you have any questions for the amazing Pamela Matthews, do email firstname.lastname@example.org