Meet Wayne Caswell, the senior director of embryology for Donor Egg Bank USA. You might say that Wayne is equal parts scientist, detective, coach, and mathematician. However, if you’re someone who’s interested in using frozen donor eggs from Donor Egg Bank USA to grow your family, the most important thing you need to know about Wayne is, that he is 100% dedicated to helping ensure your success.
Clinics, Collaboration, and Why You Should Care
Even though Wayne is laser focused on your success, he’s not interested in taking all the glory for himself. “We strive to work not as a vendor who just supplies frozen donor eggs, but rather as a collaborator with clinics and patients to offer options to the recipient and optimize outcomes,” explains Wayne. And that all begins (and ends) with data. It’s Wayne’s job (and passion) to help record, gather, and learn from all the facts and figures (from everywhere) every step of the way — regarding a donor’s potential, the security of each egg shipment, fertilization success, and (of course) the resulting rates of pregnancy.
Each embryologist shares their data with Wayne so that he can help that clinic achieve their best performance. As Wayne notes, “If you work in a vacuum, you always think you’re doing well.” He adds, “People don’t want to be average. So, I give them a ‘top-10 performance’ number, which serves as the benchmark to what can be achieved.” This unwavering attention to the collection of raw data also provides an opportunity for Wayne to unearth secrets to success. Wayne then takes this valuable information, shares it network wide, and even trains clinics all over the globe based on these best practices. In that way, he helps Donor Egg Bank USA strive to create a consistently upward trajectory of outcomes, to benefit all of our potential frozen donor egg families.
Better Control Means Better Results
Regardless of the number of hats he wears, you might say that Wayne is primarily a bit of a “type A” personality — in the best way possible. He is constantly on the lookout for ways to control against variability; to better manage those sometimes less-than-black-and-white factors in the frozen donor egg process.
For example, all of Donor Egg Bank USA’s frozen donor eggs are delivered to the clinics using priority next-day shipping. And because we work closely with both the shipping and receiving laboratories — as well as the shipping companies — it’s easy for us to be proactive regarding any potential obstacles; including deferring shipments if needed. However, there is no certain way to guarantee a winter storm, local emergency, or some other issue won’t delay that shipment. So, to ensure the security and viability of each frozen donor egg, our shipping tanks are certified to keep the eggs at freezing for up to 20 days.
Besting Our Best
The truth is, Wayne is never satisfied with good enough. In 2016, Wayne was reviewing the survival rates of Donor Egg Bank USA’s frozen eggs, once they had undergone thawing at the clinics. The rates were perfectly acceptable and in line with industry standards. However, Wayne (being Wayne) asked the question, “How do we build a robust system to control for those things which we can’t control (temperature in the laboratory, air flow, humidity, and more)?” The solution: simply increase the media (the material in which the egg thaws) and add an overlay of mineral oil. That one minimal adjustment helped Wayne to introduce a new protocol to the field, and in doing so, eventually increase our egg survival rate by 10%.
Always Asking “Why?”
One of the hallmarks of Donor Egg Bank USA is our Blastocyst Guarantee. Included in all our plans, this guarantee ensures you’ll receive usable blastocysts (for transfer, freezing or biopsy) that’s equal to, or exceeds, the number of egg lots you’ve purchased. Otherwise, we will provide an additional egg lot at no charge. But here is what makes that guarantee especially valuable. If a replacement egg lot should be required, Wayne digs in to see if any of the data collected can help to create a more favorable outcome — the next time, for that family, or even for another family at another time. Wayne says that this is his real “claim to fame;” to approach clinics by saying, “Let’s work together to identify opportunities to better help your patients.”
Wayne understands that first and foremost, our responsibility is to ensure the integrity of the frozen donor eggs which we provide. Of course, that begins with being very selective regarding the donors we offer. Wayne points out that we are dedicated to assuring the health of our donors (with extensive screening and psychological profiling). And that we are able to balance that assurance with providing a safe number of oocytes for egg banking, and eventually sharing with potential parents. In his words, we are able to “optimize (rather than maximize) donations.”
One of the ways we can help assure the quality of our frozen donor eggs is to conduct what Wayne calls a “sibling analysis.” This is simply comparing outcomes per clinic using one control item: eggs from the same donor. If eggs from one of our donors create better outcomes at one clinic versus another, then that’s enough for Wayne to ask the question, “What was different at the ‘successful’ clinic versus the ‘less successful’ clinic?” Wayne looks for information about each clinic’s timing, fertilization process, patient preparation, and even the sperm source. He approaches each case individually, from a 365-degree perspective, to provide data that might help the physicians discover ways to improve their results. Because, as Wayne explains, “If we don’t have the data, we would never be able to find out these things.”
Identifying the Future
When Wayne looks toward the future of assisted reproduction, there are several advancements and possibilities he finds exciting. He notes that artificial Intelligence is an area he’s keeping a close eye on, watching to see how it might one day assist in applications for even better oocyte selection or monitoring.
But he also values “new technologies that are not only scientifically exciting, but also practically applied.” Take for example (what may seem as the rather lackluster area of) labelling. “Patient identification is always first and foremost in the laboratory,” remarks Wayne. Currently, each frozen donor egg is stored in something that resembles a cross between a short chopstick and a crochet needle. The “business end,” which stores the egg, is very thin (which decreases the eggs’ cooling and thawing times). At the other end (which is only slightly wider), you’ll find the actual label — printed in clear, concise, tiny, mice type.
Wayne is looking forward to seeing how one developing technology, known as “witnessing systems” might play a part in making the labelling more accurate, robust, and easier to “read,” despite the limited real estate of the “stick” that holds the egg. With witnessing system technology, such as RI Witness™, a lab could benefit from not just the existing printed label, but a digital one as well. Additionally, the system would include an alarm. Its job would be to further safeguard the identity; becoming activated, for example, if eggs with more than one owner were put on the work area at the same time.
Regardless of the science, applications, technologies or new developments that lie ahead, one thing will remain the same. Wayne will continue to “make an enemy of uncontrolled variables” and keep on asking the questions (both big and small) needed to constantly improve on the success of Donor Egg Bank USA. Because, as Wayne says, “If you don’t ask, how will you know?”
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