Dr. Al Yuzpe: More than 50 Years of Innovation in the Field of Reproductive Health
Since its inception, DRISHTI has committed to showcasing to our readers our region’s most accomplished professionals. In this edition, we wanted to feature the work of Dr. Al Yuzpe. Dr. Yuzpe is an internationally renowned obstetrician and gynecologist. As Canada’s most senior Reproductive Endocrinologist, he has been involved in IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) for over 30 years and in the field of infertility for nearly 48 years. His distinguished career, and the innovations he brings to the field of reproductive health, continues through his work at Olive Fertility Centre, which has several offices located throughout Metro Vancouver.
Dr. Yuzpe received his MD, MSc, and completed hid fellowship training in obstetrics and gynecology at Western University, London, Ontario. He joined the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where he held the position of Full Professor until retiring in 1995, and now holds the distinguished academic appointment of Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. During his training, he was a Fellow of the Medical Research Council of Canada for two years with his research focusing on the development and refinement of fertility promoting drugs. Dr. Yuzpe has authored or co-authored over 100 articles in distinguished peer-reviewed academic journals.
He is currently very involved in clinical research activities at the Olive Fertility Centre and at the University of British Columbia and conducts numerous educational training programs for physicians and students undertaking their medical degree, as well as public education programs offered to the general public. He is past President of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists and the Foundation for Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health. He has served as an advisor to the US Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization as well as to provincial and federal governments. He is past chair of the Committee on Reproductive Medicine and Infertility of the Royal College of Physician and Surgeons of Canada and of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. He is also Chairman of the IVF Medical Directors of Canada.
Dr Yuzpe is known for his role in developing the fertility drugs Clomiphene and human FSH (a standard drug in IVF), and in introducing the use of the surgical procedure laparoscopy, which in the past 40 years has become the basis for minimally invasive and robotic surgery. He established the first Royal College of Physician and Surgeons-approved Canadian specialty training program in Reproductive Medicine while he was still at the University of Western Ontario. He is also known for establishing the first pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) clinic in Canada.
“When I started in 1960, we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have laboratory analyzers, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, we didn’t have monitors to monitor the fetus, robotics, lasers, we didn’t have most of the medications we use now, we didn’t have IVF,” Dr. Yuzpe recalls. “What we did have was some basic surgical tools and our own clinical judgment, and so we couldn’t help a lot of women who were trying to get pregnant.” Dr. Yuzpe was at the forefront of many of the innovations that emerged in the field of obstetrics and gynecology since those days. As many of us are unaware of the history of reproductive health, Dr. Yuzpe is in the process of writing a book. As he notes, “It is important to remember where we started, and to show just how far we have come.” The book will also detail the accomplishments of other Canadians as well as professionals from all around the world who have made significant contributions to the field of reproductive health.
Dr. Yuzpe pioneered the development of the emergency contraceptive pill (often called ‘the morning after pill’ or the ‘Plan B pill’) which is often referred to as the “Yuzpe Method;” this method has been named by the Child and Youth Health Coalition to be among the 10 most important Canadian discoveries which have had the greatest impact, or the greatest potential for impact, on health outcomes for children and youth in the past 100 years. The method was developed in response to the high number of unwanted pregnancies that many young women were experiencing on and off-campus. Dr. Yuzpe published the first studies demonstrating the method’s safety in the 1974. As a result of his work, emergency contraception has had a major impact on women’s health, resulting in thousands of fewer abortions and a reduction in untold numbers of unwanted pregnancies.
Dr. Yuzpe founded one of the first In-Vitro Fertilization centres in Canada at the University of Western Ontario in 1982. “We had a very large clinic and we had people coming to train from all over the world,” he recalls. Dr. Yuzpe was later a co-founder and co-director of Genesis Fertility Centre, and then became co-founder and co-director of Olive Fertility Centre where he currently practices. Olive Fertility Centre is one of Canada’s largest fertility clinics, offering an advanced IVF lab, personal care teams, and innovative programs that include the Embryoscope, Pre-implantation Genetic Testing (PGD), Complete Chromosome Screening (CCS), egg freezing, egg and sperm donation and prenatal NIPT testing.
Dr. Yuzpe has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society Award of Excellence in Reproductive Medicine, The Society of Obstetrics and Gynecologists President Award, the Alumni Distinction Award at the Shulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, the Award of Distinction in Medicine by Western University, the Fertile Future Recognition Award and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Speaker’s Award.
1 in 6 Canadian couples trying to conceive are diagnosed with infertility. Olive Fertility Centre can help. Olive Fertility Centre is British Columbia’s largest fertility clinic. With decades of experience, a state-of-the-art laboratory facility, personal care provided by more than 80 dedicated staff members, and the most advanced fertility treatments. Olive Fertility Centre can offer couples and individuals an excellent chance of achieving a successful pregnancy. “We have a large number of personnel, and they are all highly skilled,” Dr. Yuzpe notes. Staff include Doctors, Nurses, Genetic Counsellors, Urologists, Psychologists, Counsellors, Scientists, Wellness Professionals, Patient Coordinators and Administrative Professionals. The six Doctors at Olive Fertility Centre are all accomplished medical professionals. Besides Dr. Yuzpe, the Centres’ doctors are: Dr. Jason Hitkari, Dr. Gary Nakhuda, Dr. Niamh Tallon, Dr. Beth Taylor, and Dr. Gunu Warraich.
Dr. Yuzpe and his team continue to be at the forefront of innovations in the field of reproductive health. He speaks excitedly about the future of reproductive health. “Genetics has really been the one thing that is changing what we do in IVF,” he explains. “We can now test embryos for the majority of diseases that have been passed down in families, and remove many of them.”
About 20% of the Centre’s patients are South Asian. Dr. Yuzpe advises that infertility rates are no greater or no less than the rates amongst other ethnic communities. Dr. Yuzpe notes that he has noticed that South Asian men are more involved in the whole medical care process than they were decades ago. And he notes that, “the South Asian Community is much more open about fertility issues than they were when I first came here 20 years ago.”
In addition to seeking out medical support when having difficulty becoming pregnant, Dr. Yuzpe advises that both men and women also consider proper diet and nutrition. The odds of becoming pregnant increases significantly if the couple is healthy. Smoking, drinking and consuming too much junk food will reduce the chances of becoming pregnant.
Olive Fertility has three locations in the Lower Mainland: in Vancouver (555 West 12th Avenue), Surrey (13737 96th Avenue) and the North Shore (203-145 13th Street East). There are also satellite clinics in the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan and in Alberta. Consultations are also offered by a Centre Doctor in Whistler and Sunshine Coast Communities. The Centre was voted the Georgia Straight’s 2016 Best Fertility Clinic in Vancouver. To contact Olive Fertility, call 604-559-9950 or e-mail the Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Olive Fertility, visit their website at www.olivefertility.com. The website display information in both English and Punjabi. “We consider it an honour to be looked upon by the South Asian community to be a resource that people feel comfortable coming to,” Dr. Yuzpe advises. “That’s why we have a clinic in Surrey, why we have a doctor that speaks the community’s first languages.”
To book an appointment at Olive Fertility Centre, your physician can fax in a referral to the Centre, or can use the online referral form found on the websites. If you do not have a Family Doctor, a walk-in clinic Doctor can make the referral. Self-referrals, which require a fee, are also possible online.
Thank you, Dr. Al Yuzpe, for all the amazing work you have done in the field of medicine.
To our readers: keep an eye out for more articles in this edition as well as future DRISTHI magazine editions to learn more about the great innovators that are doing amazing work right here in Metro Vancouver.