Audrey Scott (Jenkin, 2011) always wanted to work in maternal and foetal health. Still, she did not imagine her job would involve creating human life, which is how she now spends her days as a clinical embryologist at Monash IVF.
Audrey describes her career as highly rewarding and says the circuitous route that led her to work in a laboratory to create embryos has been a valuable part of her career journey.
“I thought I would end up working as an obstetrician or paediatric doctor, but I am much happier working in my highly specialised field because my role helps give hope and provide patients with a family when they might otherwise have been without hope or options.
“The world of Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) also helps the LGBTIQA+ community with sperm and egg freezing for transitioning/preserving fertility, and helping create families with donated sperm and/or eggs, and surrogacy.
“We can help oncology patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy preserve fertility through egg and sperm freezing. We can also perform genetic testing on embryos, which helps prevent devastating genetic disorders from being passed on to children,” Audrey said.
Audrey has undertaken four formal courses of study since leaving Girton. Initially, she completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Deakin University, followed by two years of a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Wollongong.
“For several reasons, medicine was not the path I was meant to tread, but I am very proud of myself for getting into it (an achievement in itself), and I have no regrets about the journey that led me there.
“I made lots of wonderful friends, and I don’t ever ask myself “what if”, which is satisfying,” she said.
When Audrey returned to Melbourne, she completed a Graduate Diploma of Reproductive Science (Monash University), her first taste of the embryology world. It included learning about Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) for animal conservation of endangered species and for commercial sales, such as in the bovine industry, where sperm from prized stud bulls is collected and frozen using ART techniques for commercial sale worldwide.
Audrey’s focus on embryonics then turned to humans when she undertook a Masters in Clinical Embryology (Monash University), where her studies focussed on human reproductive technology, including medicine, hormones, and the many skills required in the lab to create embryos, including insemination, handling, freezing, thawing, and embryo transfer.
“Embryologists require excellent hand-eye coordination, as most of our work is performed in humidicribs (so we can mimic the uterine environment as much as possible) with microscopes and micro-manipulators, so it is incredibly detailed and delicate work,” Audrey said.
Audrey commenced at Girton in Year 6 in 2005 and graduated in 2011. She completed a 3-month exchange to Bordeaux, France, at the end of Year 10 and was a Senior Prefect in Year 12. Audrey had two favourite teachers.
“It’s a tie between Dr Harvey (now O’Rielly) for Biology and Ms Ryan for Chemistry. I love science, and their passion and dedication to the field encouraged me to push myself and strive for perfection, which serves me well in my career.
“Also, having such talented female mentors for ‘women in STEM’ is powerful, and it was incredibly exciting to see them succeed in the industry.
“At Girton, I never felt that such a path was unachievable or unattainable for me because I was a woman, and my Girton teachers helped set me up with all the tools, encouragement, and mentors needed to forge my own path in the industry,” she said.
Audrey has lived and studied in Geelong, Wollongong, and Melbourne over the past 11 years. Her main part-time job during undergrad studies was as a fromagère for delicatessens in Barwon Heads and Bendigo. A Francophile at heart, Audrey enjoyed the break from heavy science/ medicine studies.
“Working in a role where I could sell cheese to customers and discuss and learn about wine and charcuterie pairings was a relief. Working in the food industry when you are a poor uni student is always a smart idea because the free meals help a lot with budgeting.”
Audrey says that her career highlight to date is the first pregnancy achieved from an embryo transfer she completed.
“It was incredibly exciting. The patient is currently still pregnant, and I look forward to seeing the notes in her file when she (hopefully) delivers her baby in a few months.
“Before COVID, patients would sometimes bring their babies into the clinic so we could meet the little humans that we made from the sperm and eggs in the lab. I hope these visits will start up again one day.
“Patients still send in photos which are shared between the nurses, doctors, and embryologists, because everyone has a role to play in helping that new human be created; it’s a moment of shared joy for everyone involved,” she said.
Audrey currently lives with her partner in Melbourne in an apartment they are renovating. She recently gave her time to share her personal and professional life with Year 12 students at an OGA Careers Event.