David R. Meldrum, MD
China's first IVF success
Just before I left UCLA, I had the pleasure of welcoming a team of physicians from Beijing for an extended mentorship with us. I knew they would be successful by the approach they took to absorbing and recording all of the details involved. Shortly after returning they proved my prediction correct by quickly achieving the first IVF success in China. I was then invited to visit them in Beijing to see them in action. The technique had suffered a bit in the translation, but I was able to make some simple suggestions and they continued to enjoy a very good level of success (actually better than many U.S. programs that never asked for help).
China was a fascinating place to visit at that time. Claudia and I treasure a dinner we had at our host’s home (this was the menu that evening) which their son prepared for us. The feast was delicious and sumptuous. Food is an important part of their hospitality, which we experienced repeatedly. As we had observed with hosts in Ecuador serving us estomago de vaca (cow stomach), food can also be served in jest to see how their guests respond- in Beijing it was duck brain that we were encouraged to try!
Beijing at that time was a river of bicycles. One of our favorite afternoons was biking to Tiananmen Square through small neighborhoods where heating was with coal and food was often prepared on small hibachis. The only sign of progress was the large very comfortable hotels that were going up.
We were invited back several years later, after Tiananman, and what an incredible change! There were modern freeways, and many cars, new buildings, and individual homes like in any western city. Our hosts all had cell phones, laptops and video cameras. Their IVF program was doing 2,000 cycles per year (we do about 1,000 at RPMG). They had two micromanipulation set-ups and were performing procedures that any top IVF program in the world was doing.
Our host and head of their program, Dr. Zhang, was a fascinating woman who had lived through the Cultural Revolution. She, as with most intellectuals, was sent to the countryside; Dr. Zhang’s job during that time was mopping floors! We treasure our times in China. When our hosts visited us at our home in Palos Verdes. Dr. Zhang’s husband, a professor of chemistry, presented us with a gift of a piece of art etched on titanium using an electric pencil and no dyes or pigments. All of the colors of this picture of the Great Wall are oxides of the titanium.