A message from Emma.
July 9, 2019
Five years ago I met Colin Davis. I knew of him as a well-known gynaecologist but not a great deal else. Little did I know at the time that I would become his business partner and become one of the founders of the Evewell. I had no medical background and had given the world of fertility and female health little thought other than in relation to my own. But it only took a couple of meetings for me to decide to devote all of my time to helping Colin build the centre he had dreamed about for over a decade.
The reason was simple.. his vision for the centre was so inspiring. Inspiring for so many reasons. And here they are…
Fertility clinics should not just be “selling” IVF and other expensive treatments that may or may not work. These treatments should be planned by consultant gynaecologists to ensure that they are appropriate and have a chance of success. So, that women are not going through countless rounds of IVF that are doomed to fail unless their underlying gynaecological condition is resolved. Because this is what I have learnt about IVF clinics. There is not enough focus on the female patient’s gynaecology which in some cases explain why fertility treatments will not work. The two specialisms of reproductive health and gynaecology must be practised together. And here is the other shocking fact. Male infertility is close to being as significant a cause of a couple’s infertility than female related issues and yet it is all too often ignored. So, we decided very quickly that we should have a male urologist as part of our team and are delighted that we have been joined by Mr Suks Minhas. All too often men who dream of fathering their own child are simply told to resort to a donor but thanks to pioneering techniques and the right clinician a man may be able to rely on his own sperm.
Individualised treatment is absolutely key. People do not fall into neat little boxes that can be allocated a standard protocol and be expected to work. Fertility is far more sensitive than this. It depends on so many factors that only when all of these are considered can an appropriate treatment plan be put together. And that plan might change. A patient’s response to treatment may not go as expected and only through careful and daily monitoring can we be sure that we are giving the cycle of treatment every chance of success. This is why, every day, as a team, the doctors, embryologists, nursing and support staff meet and discuss the progress for every patient in treatment. We must do this to live up to this standard of individualised treatment and our own standards of clinical excellence.
To ensure that the team and its facilities could utilise and pioneer the latest techniques and developments, I quickly realised that having the opportunity to design and build a new embryology laboratory really is an exceptional opportunity. Not only can you purchase the most up to date equipment but you can lay it out in the most productive way. And then we met our Lab Director Dr Christian Ottolini, who led the design and build of his laboratory. For those of you have met him you will know that his knowledge and experience together with his unbounding dedication and enthusiasm for his work made him the perfect fit for our team. His specialism in pre-implantation genetics enables him and the doctors to make the best use of Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS). But only where they think it will truly benefit a patient, as this is an expensive technique.
Which leads on to working with integrity and honesty. Of course, these values are important in any walk of life but they are crucial here. In an environment where patients are vulnerable and treatment options are expensive both financially and emotionally we have to know that we are advising our patients in a way that is in their best interests. Not to suggest treatments or procedures they don’t need and here is the really hard bit.. to know when to stop. To have at the heart of what we do an honesty. An ability to let people know what their realistic chances are and to do this without taking away their hope.. however small that might be.
Medicine of any kind does not have to feel cold and clinical. Not in its surroundings nor in the team who administer it. Nothing is more overwhelming than medical treatment. We trust our health and our deepest hopes to those we barely know. We have to trust them. But all too often we are met with busy indifference and a feeling that we are one of many in a long queue. Experience can also make people blasé. So I wanted to build a team of people who were hugely experienced in their field but were in no way blasé. So that each patient, each cycle is as important and as significant as the others that have come before them. A team of people who really do care and are not afraid to show it. On our patient feedback forms I ask if there is a member or members of staff that particularly stood out for the patient. I am yet to receive a form that does not mention at least one member of staff with comments like “compassionate”, “trustworthy”, “caring”, “warm” and “going above and beyond in making us comfortable”. That feels like success to me.
And why does a clinical environment have to feel clinical? Our answer was it doesn’t. You can have a beautiful chair that is covered in fabric that meets with all clinical requirements but looks like the type of chair you would want in your own home. One you could just sink into and take some time to relax. Once I started to think about it I realised that women are very poorly served in this way. Do any of us relish the idea of any gynaecological exam or procedure? I think not and yet we are often having them done in really rather unpleasant surroundings. I asked myself this question if I had booked a facial or some other kind of treatment would I want to do it there? My answer was no so I began to think about how we could build a centre that people would want to be in. That they would identify with and feel in some way at home in. To feel as though they had been considered in its design. Take as an example our quiet rooms. Rooms that I designed to give patients somewhere to have time to themselves pre or post procedures or simply when everything just became too much. I wanted people to feel valued.. with a decent cup of coffee, a good book to read, a healthy snack. All these things don’t change outcomes but they do change the journey.
Truthfully, I am proud. I know that there is more we can do. I welcome hearing from patients how we can continue to improve. It is one of the questions we ask on our feedback forms. Only by listening and growing can we continue to live up to the vision that inspired the Evewell in the first place. If you would like to contact me and share your thoughts or have any questions about our work please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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