Another IVF Hero steps forward and shares his story.
We had the pleasure to interview Mr Davor Štimac, Clinical Embryologist at the Maternity & Gynecology Outpatient Clinic Podobnik, in Zagreb, Croatia.
Davor told us what motivated him to dedicate himself professionally to IVF and shared with us his views on the present and future of the Human Assisted Reproduction.
Why did you choose to dedicate your work to assisted reproduction?
From the beginning of my studies, I was very interested in natural sciences, mostly to the fields of biology and medicine. After graduating from high school in Zagreb, I decided to study molecular biology at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. Through my college education, I became more and more interested about embryology, more specifically, human reproduction. There was a real chance to make a difference in this field, a chance to help couples overcoming their fertility issues. Luckily, my dream of working as an embryologist came true. My job is so rewarding, and I enjoy it so much, that I could say that I take it more as a hobby than a job. I really look forward to every new day, to every new chance of helping our patients. Hopefully we will be able to help them achieving their dream of becoming parents.
How did your interest in cryopreservation begin?
Through my training as an embryologist and my years of experience working in a laboratory, I have realized how crucial is the cryopreservation of biological material in IVF. It plays a key role in many areas: cryopreservation of oocytes, sperm, testicular and ovarian tissue, fertility preservation of oncological patients, preservation for social reasons…Also in stimulated cycles, where we have a certain number of high-quality embryos, without freezing them, those embryos would have to be destroyed. It is inconceivable that the option of cryopreservation of biological material does not exist in medicine today.
What do you consider your biggest success in the IVF Field?
I personally think that the main achievement of my career was to perform, together with my colleagues, the first auto transplantation of ovarian tissue into patients undergoing premature menopause. We were one of the few clinics in the world, and first clinic in Croatia to perform such procedure, that ended with the birth of a healthy baby girl.
How did Vitrification change the routine in the IVF labs?
Vitrification has greatly improved the freezing process of biological material. It accelerated the performance itself, reduced the possibility of damaging the frozen material, and most importantly, the survival rate of thawed specimens was significantly better than the one we had with slow freezing.
I grew professionally using The Cryotop® Method. I think it is technically easy to perform and reproduce, the whole protocol is really fast, and it is the less stressful Method for the specimens.
In your opinion, should blastocysts be collapsed or not?
Such a tricky question! There are contradictory results in literature on this issue. Some evidence says that collapsing results in better survival of the blastocysts. However, there is no scientific evidence to show that this results improve the clinical outcome, and by that I mean higher implantation rates and birth rates. In my opinion and experience, we know that inducing blastocyst collapse requires an additional procedure that can damage the blastocyst itself. In our lab we do not take such risk; we freeze expanded blastocysts on day 5, and we obtain excellent results I must add.
How important do you think is innovation in this industry?
I believe innovation is the key to success in every industry. IVF is not an exception. Medicine is changing, rapidly evolving, and this certainly implies that the patients are also changing. For example, the decision to procreate is being taken at an increasingly late age. The only remaining constant is the actual reproductive age of a person, and that is the biggest obstacle we are facing. Every new discovery, every new shift in equipment and IVF procedures can be critical to achieving pregnancy and having a healthy baby with increasingly old patients.
Where do you think the industry is going? What do you see in the future of IVF?
I see a future where everything happens faster. The new scientific research and new scientific evidences are quickly spread throw education, seminars and congresses. This can help professionals from all over the world to solve issues and to achieve better results in the field of human reproduction. I am in favour of the introduction of new apparatus, new tests of biological material either at the kinetics and morphology level, or at the genetics level of both gametes and tissues for the purpose of improving the detection and resolution of problems. That being said, evolving a fast pace needs more than ever strong ethical boundaries to regulate our work. Not everything must be done at all costs, especially not when it comes to a matter as sensitive as human lives.
What attributes you think a good Embryologist must have? What makes a great Gynaecologist?
An OCD “diagnosis” is definitely important for an embryologist ? just joking! I do believe though, that precision, speed, manual dexterity and sometimes improvisation, are key qualities of an accomplished embryologist. However, is the love and full dedication to the job what means the difference between embryologists. It is hard to excel without commitment to what you do, the outcome of your job and the satisfaction of your patients. Also, the role and the relationship between embryologists and gynaecologists is crucial. Without good communication and respect in the team, you won’t have the success that you want.
What do you think is the impact of your job in modern societies?
Unfortunately, more and more couples are struggling with the problem of infertility. The “modern” age also carries a different way of life. There is even more stress, adverse environmental factors (poor diet, illness, radiation, etc.) that affects negatively the fertility of both women and men. In addition to exogenous factors, there are also endogenous factors that can cause problems, like the aforementioned decision to postpone maternity. Without our little help, there would be a lot of people that could not be able to fulfil their dream of parenting. It is fair to state that our work brought happiness to a big amount of people and plays an increasingly important role in today’s society.