Reflecting on the ASRM Scientific Congress 2019

What happens when an infertility patient attends a reproductive medical congress? She gets overwhelmed, overeducated and overly emotional. Elyse Ash shares a bit about the incredible experience of attending ASRM’s annual medical congress; what she learned, what she saw and what she’s hopeful for.

If you’re an infertility patient, odds are you’re pretty familiar with acronyms: IVF. IUI. TTC. But have you ever heard of ASRM?  

No, we’re not referring to the cultural wave of soothing ASMR videos.

ASRM stands for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and every year they host the premier education and research meeting for Reproductive Medicine Scientific sessions, Pre-Congress courses, and video programs presented by experts.


(From L to R: Dr. Deborah Simmons, Carolyn Berger , Amy Demma, Dawn Davenport, Elyse Ash)

This was my first year attending and it was a comprehensive, energizing and borderline-overwhelming event which covered every single topic related to reproductive medicine, including biology, technology, ethics, and so much more.

Over 9,000 reproductive medicine experts from around the world attended the event and included physicians, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, insurers, therapists, lawyers, healthcare experts, and infertility advocates. Honestly, there’s nothing like walking into an exhibitor hall with giant sperm hanging from the ceiling and thinking, “Ah, I’ve found my people!”


As someone without a medical degree, this conference was not really designed for me, but I found it incredibly educational and inspiring regardless. Many of the session names sounded intimidating (e.g. “Interferon Gamma-Induced Protein 10 is Significantly Lower at Early Implantation in Twin Versus Singleton Pregnancies” – come again?). But many sessions were not only approachable, they were down-right fascinating and culturally relevant. 

My favorite session was on October 15 and was called “Beyond Disclosure: The Genetic, Psychological, Legal and Social Impressions of Donor Identity.” This panel included a therapist, genetic counselor, attorney and operations VP from an egg donor bank. They discussed how the industry can best support donor-conceived children in this new age of genetic information overload with 23andMe and other direct-to-consumer genetic-related products. I left feeling so inspired, I’m going to put my learnings together in a whole separate blog post.

This was an inspiring, diverse event which brought me so much hope. I loved seeing how much work is being done to improve reproductive medications, procedures and access to care. Physicians, scientists, embryologists and even insurance companies want to make reproductive technology more successful and more accessible — just like us (the patients)! I left feeling like we all *do* have similar goals deep down, and left feeling excited to see the comprehensive research being done and true progress being made.

My favorite part of the exhibit hall was a mural sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals (who makes infertility meds like Menopur and Endometrin). Attendees were asked to write down their greatest wish for their patients. An illustrator then drew a mural (aka “a wishing wall”) capturing all of these wishes. It was just so beautiful. I left the conference feeling truly excited (and exhausted). Thank you to ASRM for allowing me to attend such an educational and inspirational event. Can’t wait for next year!

 

Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. It took her and her husband Brad three years, two rounds of IVF and one frozen embryo transfer to see their first positive pregnancy test which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce and pretending she’s into yoga.

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