Wednesday, September 30, 2009

UCL Older Mothers Conference Generates Global Publicity

The most positive outcome about Dr Sammy Lee's recent well-attended Motherhood In The 21st Century all-day conference at the UCL, is that it has put the controversial subject of Older Mothers on the map in a rational and good way. For when the subject of 'IVF pregnant mums way past their menopause' hits the news, the articles are usually accompanied by bloodcurdling, tabloid styled screaming headlines.

At the prestigious conference, I spoke to many of the people present who unanimously agreed the conference was a big success. All the eminent scientists and infertility gynaecologists agreed that the reason why the Conference was so successful, was because it explained all about the real issues concerning Older Motherhood which needed to be aired, but are never written about in the glut of sensationalist articles about older mothers. Other attendees I spoke to agreed with this sentiment. They included barristers, psychotherapists, clinical embryologists, ethics students, research fellows, nutritional therapists, chemists, PhD students, fertility nurses, journalists and editors, midwives, acupuncturists, GPs, infertility counsellors, public relations consultants, ethics students, clinical psychologists, medical historians, sociologists and science writers.

The general consensus of the conference was that the subject of Older Mothers has been orbited into the public domain. All will be explained in detail in the published book (due out around December 2009) about the "Motherhood in the 21st Century's" stimulating conference and extensive debate. It will contain the verbatim proceedings of the all-day conference, so most likely this ground breaking event will have a place in scientific literature for the layperson, the student and the expert/clinician alike.

On a personal note, I am eager to read the book (in due course, details can eventually be viewed on the UCL Older Mothers link), because I was unable to hear all of what the softly spoken Shere Hite said; who apparently spoke about orgasms in her speech.

However, I was pleased to see that the UCL posted my blog entry about the Older Mothers Conference on their website, and that the Conference as a whole generated a lot of publicity including lengthy articles about the day from international journalists and on the UK domestic front, from the Times’ Vivienne Parry which attracted a very large number of Comments, proving that people in general want to know the real issues about Older Motherhood.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Older Mothers Conference

If a bomb had dropped on the UCL yesterday, a big chunk of the international world of IVF would have been wiped out. The charismatic Dr Sammy Lee, the renowned clinical embryologist, who was an early pioneer of IVF (and is now interested in stem cell therapy and human cloning) organised a glamorous one-day conference and debate on "Motherhood in the 21st century" inside the guarded university's Anatomy Department.

I arrived at the university's JZ Young Lecture Theatre the same time as Lord Professor Robert Winston (Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College) who was giving the conference's opening address and the cultural historian, Shere Hite, one of the conference's diverse speakers. Although she is a revolutionary feminist, she looks and acts like Marilyn Monroe and immediately had all the men eating out of her hand. It's incredible to think her first book, the infamous, "The Hite Report" sold 48 million copies worldwide. No wonder she looks like a million dollars. (I asked her if she would ever consider having herself cloned, but she said she would have to know more about it).

The actual conference explored the reasons why some women choose to become mothers late in life. The speakers focused on some of the ethical issues: i.e. 'is it good for the parents? Is it good for the child? Is there a different standard applied to elderly mothers as opposed to elderly fathers?' Health and safety issues were also addressed, including the health risks associated with older women getting pregnant, increased risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, developmental problems with the placenta and need for Caesarean section, etc.

The entertaining Dr Ray Nobel (the Senior Lecturer/Graduate Tutor Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UCL; Medical ethicist) conducted the debate in the afternoon).

'What a panel!' he exclaimed.

I had to agree with him, as the conference speakers included some of the globe's famous scientists and infertility gynecologists including - here comes the name checks: Dr Gulam Bahadur, (Head of Fertility & reproductive Medicine Laboratories, UCL), the charming Peter Brinsden (Medical Director, Bourn Hall Clinic), Professor John Carroll, the Associate Dean, Division of Bioscienes, UCL, Professor Gedis Grudzinskas (Formerly Chair of Obsteric & Gynaecology at St Bart's and the Royal London Hospitals, as well as of The Bridge Centre. Now in private practice in Harley Street, and current editor of RBM Online), Dr Joyce Harper (formerly of the London Fertility centre), Professor Dr Shere Hite, Professor Sammy Lee, Dr Menabawey, who confided he owes his entire career to Sammy Lee, Professor N Pandiyan (Chief Consultant, reproductive Medicine, Chettinad Hospital & Research Institute) who had flown over from India just for the conference, 'the Big Cheese' Professor Claudio Stern (Head of Research Dept., Cell & Development Biology, UCL), Dr John Swann (Senior embryologist, Royal Free Hospital) and the dishy Dr Paul Serhal (Medical Director, UCL Fertility Unit).

If a woman was desperate to go through the expensive rigmaroles of an IVF baby, this conference was the place to be. Although one doc stood up during the debate and raised a few laughs by saying:

'A thirty-nine year old woman friend told me she wanted to get her eggs frozen, so I advised her to meet the right partner as soon as possible and have a baby the natural way.'

The London's Global University laid on a delicious lunch and dinner , and I never knew that the world of IVF and academia could be so entertaining. Thanks Sammy for an uplifting day and I know who to come to if I want twins at the age of seventy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On The Guest List

I haven't been to Dingwalls, the live music club in Camden Town for centuries. I think one of the last times I was on the guest list there, was when I listened to Debbie Harry's gig in the ladies' lavatory which used do have the best acoustics in town!

Last night, I was booked in to see Martin Belmont perform at the club, playing his new CD The Guest List featuring fabulous musicians like Paul Carrack, the 'rock 'n' roll doctor' Hank Wangford (who gave a sophisticated performance), Nick Lowe, and Graham Parker etc. The legendary Dave Robinson, who created Stiff Records was holding court, surrounded by blokish pub rockers (such as the surviving Ducks de Luxe) most of whose careers he has spawned.

So, how did I get to hear about this illustrious gig? From Austin de Lone (my illustrious brother-in-law), who started the pub rock movement in the United Kingdom with his old band, Eggs Over Easy. He has inspired and played with them all!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Double Whammy Sightseeing Expedition

Peter Herbert curated the recent Freedom Of Art exhibition at The Conference Centre at St Pancras Hospital where incarcerated prisoners' powerful Art sold for well below Sotheby's auction prices.

Now, Peter has curated a new Portraiture exhibition titled Taken From Life, which opens on Wednesday September 9th at the same Conference Centre. Art on Show includes (here comes the press release) 'sixteen paintings from the oil painting collection of Keith Marshall, new work by photo realist gymnast artist Adam Walker-Smith, the outsider artist Phil Wildman, who presents a collection of raw mixed media self portraits and from the photographer/writer Joanne O'Brien: painted portraits of theatrical folk including Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and the actress Siobhan Mckenna.'

On an historic note, One advantage about visiting the Concerence Centre is the fascinating graveyard attached to the nearby St Pancras Old Church which Charles mentions in the "Tales of Two Cities". It's worth a visit just for the Thomas Hardy Tree which is a national treasure. (The Hardy tree, growing between gravestones moved while Thomas Hardy, then a trainee architect, was involved in the clearance of part of the churchyard to make way for the railway).