Jan 9, 2024

Faculty members win international award for oncofertility research

Dr. Jennia Michaeli and Dr. Ellen Greenblatt won the award for their research into ovarian tissue cryopreservation

Dr. Jennia Michaeli and Dr. Ellen Greenblatt
By Nick Patch

Dr. Jennia Michaeli and Dr. Ellen Greenblatt recently won an award for excellence in research at the 15th Annual Conference of the Oncofertility Consortium in Pittsburgh for their innovative research exploring ovarian tissue cryopreservation.

Together with Madison Erb, a clinical embryologist and a graduate of U of T’s Master of Health Science (MHSc) in Laboratory Medicine program, Greenblatt and Michaeli were honored for their study evaluating the impact of ovarian tissue fragment size on follicular viability following cryopreservation and thawing in the bovine model. Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is a well-established technique for fertility preservation in people with ovaries who are unable to freeze mature oocytes (for example, in urgent cases and children).

We appreciate this recognition of our work by the international oncofertility community and are grateful for the opportunity to have placed U of T and Mount Sinai Hospital at a leading position in this essential field. This award encourages us to continue our experimental efforts at the bench to advance clinical practice at the bedside,” said Michaeli, who, along with Greenblatt, promotes the establishment of a Provincial Centre of Excellence for Fertility Preservation at Mount Sinai Hospital.

In addition to this honour, Michaeli, a new assistant professor in our department, was also recently awarded a SMART Fund Grant at the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society’s 69th Annual Meeting this fall for a multi-centre, randomized, controlled trial, which will compare GnRH antagonist IVF-PGT-A cycle outcomes following final oocyte maturation triggering by hCG vs. GnRH agonist vs. Dual trigger in predicted poor/normoresponders. This study will explore which type of medication is best given at the end of ovarian stimulation.

This multi-site, nationwide collaboration will be led by Michaeli, Mount Sinai Fertility, and collaborating with Dr. Crystal Chan, assistant professor in our department, Markham Fertility; Dr. Michael Hartman, Generation Fertility Vaughan; and Dr. Gary Nakhuda, Olive Fertility Centre in B.C.

Michaeli began working on these research projects as a trainee in our Department’s Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility fellowship program. In fact, the prospect of conducting impactful research played a major role in prompting Michaeli to move from Israel to Toronto to pursue the program.

“My interest in translational and clinical research motivated me to apply for the GREI fellowship program at U of T, which has a major research focus and a strong reputation for training the best reproductive endocrinologists in the world,” Michaeli recalls.

“The ob-gyn department at U of T is an incredibly nurturing environment for clinicians who want to combine research and medicine. I am grateful for the empowering mentorship and multiple research opportunities I received as a trainee in the program.”

Greenblatt, a professor in our department, has played a particularly important role in Michaeli’s development since she was a fellow.

“Dr. Greenblatt has been an amazing mentor for me,” Michaeli said. ”Dr. Greenblatt, who is a pioneer in the field of oncofertility and established this practice in Canada, shares my passion for fertility preservation. Together, we are bringing innovation in research and improving clinical practice.”

Greenblatt has a similar admiration for Michaeli. She marvels at the energy and passion she consistently sees from Michaeli, a mother of four boys who enjoys hiking, recreational climbing, and baking.

“Dr. Michaeli has more energy than anyone I know,” Greenblatt said. “She’s just a complete package. She’s a solid clinician. She has a great way of interacting with her patients and her colleagues. What we do is very multi-disciplinary, and you have to be able to communicate with lots of people at different levels — nursing staff, embryologists, learners, medical students, lab staff, geneticists — and she’s really great at that. And intellectually, she’s just very curious.

“She’s a real firecracker. She’s incredibly energetic and just gets things done. And her enthusiasm is infectious.”