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Me and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Between October 16 and 21, 2009, I had the pleasure to attend the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. This is the yearly convention for medical professionals involved in fertility care, and this latest attendance marked my 25th consecutive meeting!

I have seen the Society grow from several hundred to several thousand attendees; the meetings used to be in hotels, now they take up a wing of a convention center. At times, the meeting resembles a 3-ring circus: several simultaneous sessions of scientific presentations, video presentations of surgical procedures, lectures, updates, debates, roundtable discussions, seminars, and panel discussions.

The plenary lectures are often a mix of serious science combined with general interest and even entertainment: the use of 3-D video technology in endoscopic surgery, sexual strategies among migratory birds, a global perspective on contraception, menopausal care in the future, etc.

There is a commercial aspect, of course. The exhibit hall is huge and filled with many hundreds of companies trying to sell their products to practicing fertility specialists. I find the exhibits very useful; after all, our specialty is very closely intertwined with cutting-edge technology. It was the development of laparoscopy that first led to the development of IVF. Subsequent refinements and demand for IVF led to the development of ultrasound technology, improved embryology techniques, etc. Many of the gadgets and gizmos being sold in the exhibit hall may prove to be useful and helpful to patients by improving success or by making procedures less uncomfortable.

I attended the usual number of committee meetings, fellowship directors’ meetings, and editorial boards, and tried to hear as many of the plenary sessions as possible.

I also presented a seminar in a debate format, in which I spoke for the slow-freeze method of oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing), whereas SL Tan, M.D., of McGill University in Montreal, presented information about the fast-freeze method (vitrification). It wasn’t much of a debate, since we both agree about the advantages and disadvantages of both methods, but the debate format made the discussion more interesting.

Attending the meeting is very tiring, but definitely educational. Even if there is little new in a factual sense, I gain perspective on how others approach specific problems in the field. I came home exhausted, but satisfied and with a notebook filled with scribbles and sketches for new ideas and new initiatives to start in this new year.

Perhaps most reassuring to me was the ability to compare our program against the rest of the world of IVF. ASRM is now an international society, and information about how IVF is practiced around the world is best seen here. We certainly do our best to keep our program at the forefront of knowledge. It is reassuring to attend an international meeting and have direct proof that we are succeeding.

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