World Embryologist Day with San Diego Fertility Center
We're celebrating World Embryologist Day with Vanessa Julaton, PhD, of San Diego Fertility Center!
World Embryologist Day is celebrated annually on July 25th, the day that Louise Brown became the first baby ever born through IVF (in vitro fertilization). Embryologists are a key part of family building through IVF, egg donation, sperm donation, surrogacy and more. We are incredibly grateful for the work of embryologists, and we were so excited to speak to Vanessa Julaton, PhD, about her role as an IVF Lab Supervisor at San Diego Fertility Center. Read on for Vanessa's perspective on changes in embryology, her best advice for hopeful parents, and more!
Why did you become an embryologist?
Vanessa Julaton: I became an embryologist because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. I wanted to help people grow their families, and I hoped that I could do that by using the technical skills and the knowledge that I had gained in graduate school.
Where did you study and for how many years?
Vanessa: I studied at UCSD for 4 years, where I got my Bachelor's of Science in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience and a Minor in Psychology. I then went on to get my PhD in Biomedical Sciences at UCSF and Stanford University. I have been an embryologist for 12 years, have been part of the SDFC family for 8 years, and am one of the IVF lab supervisors at SDFC.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Vanessa: A typical day in the IVF lab at San Diego Fertility Center starts at around 7am. We do performance checks on all of the equipment to ensure that everything is working appropriately. We then begin to do the procedures that have been ordered for the day, which can be anything from egg retrievals, to embryo biopsy, embryo warming and vitrification, embryo transfers, oocyte retrievals, ICSI, etc. Once the team completes all the ordered procedures, we clean up the lab and begin to prepare for the next day's procedures.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Vanessa: My favorite part of my job is when patients bring their babies in for a visit or send us updates with photos and videos. We just love sharing in our patients' joy and success. To this day, I'm still in awe knowing that we played a small role in helping to create those precious miracles!
What is the role of an embryologist in parents' egg donor journey?
Vanessa: At the time of insemination, the embryologist and a 2nd witness match the donor tissue with the appropriate sperm source. Once the embryo(s) are created, the embryos are cultured in the lab, biopsied (if indicated) and frozen, then transferred to the intended parent (or a gestational carrier) in a FET (frozen embryo transfer) cycle.
What questions should parents ask their embryologist and/or find out about the lab technology?
Vanessa: There have been many advances in ART in recent years, and it's important that the IVF lab that you partner with is staying current with the advancing technology. Some questions that are important to ask are "Will my embryos be cultured to the blastocyst stage?", "Will I have a Day 3 or Day 5 embryo transfer?", "If I choose to, will I have the option to have PGT performed on my embryos?"
What are some of the biggest changes to the world of IVF in your career?
Vanessa: When I first started doing IVF, most labs were doing Day 3 embryo biopsies, and we had to take 1/8th of the genetic material of the embryo to send away for testing. Now, we as a field are exploring the possibility of non-invasive PGT (niPGT-a) where we won't have to biopsy the embryo at all, but instead, we can tell the genetics of each embryo from sampling the culture media that the embryo grows in. This scientific advancement is incredible to me, and the idea that we won't have to biopsy the embryo at all is so exciting!
SDFC's lab is considered one of the best in the world - can you explain why?
Vanessa: We take great pride in everything that we do. We love our patients and we truly believe that we have the greatest job on the planet! On top of that, our physicians have recognized that it's important to invest in cutting-edge technology in the IVF laboratory, so we have state-of-the art microscopes, air-handling system, workstations and cryopreservation storage technology. In the end, our patients are the ones who really benefit from SDFC's dedication to providing high-quality patient care.
How does the lab team at SDFC work together (this question is really to get a sense of the atmosphere at the lab).
Vanessa: The lab team at SDFC is a very close-knit group. We all get along really well, communicate well with each other and I respect them all immensely. They are all bright, hard-working and kind individuals who each bring valuable strengths to the team. Together, we have a strong family dynamic which helps us work efficiently and effectively. This team is one of the strongest assets of SDFC (but I may be biased, of course!)
Thank you to Vanessa and the team at San Diego Fertility Center for taking the time to speak with us! You can learn more about their services for intended parents and innovative work on their website. We are grateful to work with amazing fertility partners who provide best-in-class support for hopeful parents.
Interested in building your family with Donor Concierge? Schedule your free consultation today.