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Reflecting on positive changes throughout 2023 at The Agora Clinic with Medical Director Carole Gilling-Smith

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Article written by Dr Carole Gilling-Smith

Reflecting on 2023 fills me with a great deal of emotion. All praise to my team of doctors, nurses, scientists, and admin staff who have continued to live our vision and values every single day this year and delivered 110% on every occasion. The team are the beating heart of our successful fertility service and this year they have gone way beyond my expectations, making all our patients feel nurtured, understood, and cared for. I’m also so grateful to still be working with and expanding upon our wonderful partnership with Two Dads UK and My Surrogacy Journey. I’m excited to see what 2024 may bring…

Let’s start at the beginning; back in January we said goodbye to our old clinic in Hove, which had been our home for over 15 years and where we had brought joy to over 4500 families. They say moving house is very stressful, but believe me, moving a whole IVF clinic is probably a step above.
Imagine the complexity of moving thousands of little frozen embryos, tucked up safely in their liquid nitrogen storage tanks by convoy to our new abode in central Brighton, following the extremely strict regulation required by our industry. I am so grateful to those in my team who planned and executed the whole move with such care and precision.

Turning the old, dilapidated Edwardian building into a state-of-the-art IVF clinic was a challenging undertaking. The result is stunning and resonates with the ethos of the clinic which is to put emotional and physical wellbeing at the centre of everything we do, both for our patients and staff. The clinic is bursting with light and colour, with different green hues throughout and a real sense of calm and serenity prevails. Most healthcare settings still insist on using unimaginative names for individual rooms such as Consulting or Ultrasound room, which can be triggering if you are there to get help to conceive. However, at the Agora, each room is imaginatively named after a fertility God or symbol with every minority, ethnic group or religion across the globe represented in some way. These themes of inclusivity and hope also to prevail with the use of names like Rainbow Suite for the area where all the magic happens in the laboratory and Ice Suite where the little frozen embryos are stored. Patients can even catch a glimpse of the embryology team busy at work in the lab through glass doors or peep through small windows into our cryostorage room where frozen eggs, sperm and embryos are stored. We believe in truly empowering our patients with a knowledge of the science that will help them to become parents.

We celebrated our move with a Grand Opening event where we invited Michael, Wes, Talulah, and Duke from Two Dads UK and My Surrogacy Journey to join 28 Agora children conceived through IVF at our old premises and their parents to enjoy a unique IVF discovery experience. Our young visitors and their parents were given a once in a lifetime chance to meet the doctors and scientists who had helped create them and get a behind the scenes look at all the fascinating equipment and techniques we use. The older children were very curious to find out more about how babies are conceived in a lab and meet other IVF-conceived children. One of our teenagers, Albi, was featured on ITV Meridien News speaking about his experience as a donor-conceived child. The children all received a signed certificate of their visit and a personalised video as a keepsake of how they and other Agora children were made, including some very special and emotional staff testimonials.

In our new clinic we have continued to do what we do best – make babies. This year over two thirds of our patients received their treatment fully funded by the NHS, but in contrast to other NHS provision, their experience has been on a par with private healthcare – all our patients are seen within 2 weeks of being referred and experience no waiting time to start their treatment. We receive so many lovely testimonials each week, but a common theme prevails; the kindness, compassion, and professionalism of our team, whatever the outcome. So far in 2023 we have seen tiny little beating hearts on 225 of our early pregnancy scans after successful treatment. So, a very exciting Christmas ahead for so many of our patients who started the year desperate to be able to realise their dreams of having a family. We have also been able to help 33 people diagnosed with cancer to freeze their eggs or sperm urgently before they started their chemotherapy, and 22 trans folk preserve their fertility before starting gender affirming hormones.

We have also made great strides in terms of matching our IPs with egg donors. Our collaboration with two renowned international egg banks has made a significant impact on our wait times, enabling us to find excellent donor matches for our IPs within a matter of days. No longer having an egg donation waiting list is remarkable, and to be able to accelerate the matching process is hugely exciting and encouraging for all our couples and single folk in search of an egg donor.

Our surrogacy program has also proved very popular with IPs this year, doubling in size, and we are proud to announce the arrival of 5 Agora babies to IPs this year with another arrival expected on Christmas Eve and even more patters of tiny feet due in the New Year! Surrogate matching times are now much quicker than previously, with many more surrogates in Sussex coming forward. So with a zero wait to match to egg donors, our IP’s can now feel confident about timescales and can plan their treatment timelines with so much more certainty. With our dedicated surrogacy and egg donation team on hand, little surprise that more IPs than ever are opting for treatment by the sea!

We have also continued to be the leading provider of fertility and reproductive health education in the South-East by offering free seminars in schools, the workplace as well as being the educational sponsor at the Modern Family Show in September. Many of our team were at this fantastic event and we were involved in many of the panel discussions and seminars. We also hosted a Pathways to Parenthood discovery day at our new clinic during Pride month in June and were delighted to welcome Michael Johnson-Ellis as our guest speaker on our surrogacy seminar.

So, all in all a great year and little surprise that we continue to be applauded for our pioneering approach as leaders and educators in inclusive fertility care!

Carole Gilling-Smith is the CEO, founder, and Medical Director at The Agora Clinic. The Agora Clinic is committed to helping individuals and couples from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or religious beliefs, fulfil their dreams of starting a family. We have clinics in Brighton, Eastbourne, and Worthing. To find out more please visit our website

Hi everyone, So I’m Mike, guess I’m the crazy one who had the idea to sell our souls to Social Media and open up our world for everyone to comment on and observe our lives. I spend most nights (when not with Talulah and Duke obviously) with my phone glued to my hand, posting, sharing, liking and filming - all in readiness for Facebook, Insta and now YouTube. It’s getting to be a full time job, which is tricky - as I have one of those! For the last 18 years I have worked within Medical Recruitment and have worked in a variety of high pressured Operational and Business Development roles in London and the Midlands. More recently I am working for myself as it gives me greater flexibility with our new family via my Consultancy firm MJE Consultancy Ltd, where I attract and recruit Fertility Nurses, Embryologists and IVF Consultants and other specialist Doctors, as the Fertility Industry is my passion. I’m obviously one half of TwoDads.U.K and very proud of that fact too, and without doubt being a father is and has been the best job I’ve ever had. Nothing prepares you for the impact these little humans have on us, I know if you’re anything like me, the joy of being a parent just keeps on giving (whilst equally testing me too!). Don’t get me wrong, there’s days where I want to sit on the garage floor and drown myself in Gin but on the whole, life is better than it ever has been...

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