Clinical Embryology is a relatively new field and the number of people seeking fertility treatment is increasing worldwide. A shortage of professionals has prompted leading clinical provider CARE Fertility to launch a new Masters course with Liverpool John Moores University.
We spoke to Dr Giles Watts, programme leader at LJMU and Alison Campbell, CARE Group’s Chief Scientific Officer about their unique method to train a new generation of IVF professionals.
Alison and Giles, you’ve established an innovative collaboration between a leading university and a pioneering IVF clinic. Why?
Alison – “We had a shared vision of a new and exciting Masters degree, which was different to the few that are currently available. CARE Fertility had recently opened a training facility in Manchester, purpose-built for training scientists and students on state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Our founder, Professor Simon Fishel, one of the pioneers of IVF treatment, already had a relationship with Liverpool John Moores University and so facilitated discussions to scope this new degree.
Giles - When Professor Fishel approached the University to propose the new course, we realised we had a unique opportunity to do something completely different to a traditional degree programme. Together LJMU and CARE Fertility have created an exceptional course that will provide the highest level of teaching and practical training in the various fields within Clinical Embryology.
Alison, tell us a little about CARE and its mission.
Alison - “CARE Fertility is the largest fertility group in the UK. Our primary mission is to help make families. We do everything we can to help our patients; to offer them the best treatments and chances of success. We are also passionate about training and development. We have continuous development plans for all staff, and we actively educate and train new professionals entering our field. With around 200 medical and scientific team members, delivering a Masters degree in Clinical Embryology gives us the opportunity to share our collective and extensive knowledge of infertility and to train students in practical aspects of our work.”
Giles, how will working in partnership with a clinical provider of care contribute to the student experience on the course?
“It is simply an amazing opportunity and somewhat novel. Having access to practitioners in the many varied fields that are covered by Clinical Embryology, the students will have a depth and breadth of knowledge that will help them throughout their careers. The advantage of partnering with a commercial care provider is that the students will see the full range of treatment options available for patients, rather than just those limited choices within the NHS.”
How would you assess the market demand for this programme and the career opportunities for graduates in this field of medicine?
Alison – “Clinical Embryology is a relatively new field and the number of people needing and seeking fertility treatment is increasing worldwide. There is a general shortage of professionals with specialist knowledge and skills, and evident demand for this programme. Graduates from our degree will have a broad knowledge of Clinical Embryology and practical skills and training to enable them to pursue a career in embryology or related research. In the UK, they could use this as a solid foundation to work towards becoming a registered clinical embryologist, or to help them embark on the national scientist training programme. We are also anticipating a lot of interest from international students who may otherwise not have such an opportunity for study like this and be taught by experts in the field.”
Giles – “Compared with the more traditional courses in the sciences, Clinical Embryology is very much a growth industry. This is not just in the UK, but worldwide, so there are incredible opportunities for the postgraduates of this programme to work abroad. This programme will also provide an opportunity for students to pursue a research career if they want to go into the more basic science side of Clinical Embryology.”
Is this a practical, hands-on course or is it more theory-based?
Alison - “This course is unique in that it contains theory-based learning as well as practical, hands-on training delivered within a fertility clinic setting by practicing embryologists and clinicians. Approximately half of the students’ time will be spent at the University and half at the in-clinic training centre where they will also conduct their own research project.”
Giles – “This is the crux of what makes this programme so special. The students will have access to a broad science background in topics such as embryology and genetics taught at LJMU. This will underpin the more applied clinical, technical, and practical side of the industry that will be taught by CARE Fertility. Both partners will give students access to experts in the various fields which will make this a very nurturing and positive learning environment as students progress through the course.”
Finally, how and when can interested graduates or professional people apply?