The Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine is an American fertility clinic that helps patients and researches new genetic approaches to fighting infertility and hereditary disease. Dr. Mandy Katz-Jaffe works in research and patient care, developing the genetic technologies that she and her team use in their practice. We talked to her about her background and her workflow.
Current gig: Scientific and Genetics Director, CCRM
Current computer: PC, with two wide monitors so I can view patient charts and lab results simultaneously
Current mobile device: iPhone 8S
Word that best describes how you work: Dynamic or precise
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
My background is that of a reproductive geneticist. I completed my Masters and Ph.D. at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and moved to the U.S. after receiving my doctorate in 2004. I joined the research and clinical teams at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) in Lone Tree, CO, where I’ve been ever since.
My current role is Scientific and Genetics Director at CCRM, which sees me split my time between patient care and research, both things I greatly enjoy. My work in the lab is focused on preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) as well as identifying genetic and other molecular processes associated with infertility; for example, how age factors into infertility, implantation failure and recurrent miscarriage.
Our research has introduced groundbreaking practices like Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (CCS) — a test that detects an abnormal number of chromosomes in embryos, a leading cause of miscarriages in women 35 or older — that have helped thousands of CCRM couples have healthy babies, and which have since been adopted by clinics worldwide.
Take us through a recent workday.
7:45am: Drop my kids at school
8:15am: Arrive at the clinic. First task of every day is to analyse overnight genetic testing for clinical patient reports.
9:30am: Review of ongoing clinical trials, recruitment and protocols
10am: Lab meeting with Research team
11am: Attend to network and physician clinical inquiries
11:30am: Patient consults. After patient consults, grab lunch and take a brisk walk to re-energize
1pm: Leadership team meeting
2pm: Patient consults and respond to patient clinical inquiries
3pm: Review patient cases with Genetic Counseling team
3:30pm: Approve and sign off on preimplantation genetic testing patient reports
4:30pm: Liaise with other departments including laboratories, patient care teams and marketing
5:30pm: Plan and tweak clinical and research priorities, data analysis and ongoing publications
6:30-7pm: Head out to pick up my kids from their after school sports
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Have to admit that my entire world is on my phone! There are a few apps/tools in particular I am especially attached to, including my music lists and NPR podcasts, which I listen to while driving to and from work.
What’s your workspace setup like?
My workspace is a little unconventional since it includes both an office and lab.
Our labs at CCRM are open work environments to enable cross communication between all of our team members. This means that there’s a lot of work we do side-by-side to invite cooperation and team support. This isn’t always the setup in laboratories.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
In the lab we work in a very strict and sterile environment. This means we all wear a gown, face mask, gloves, etc. to ensure that we do not contaminate any of the samples we work with. It’s not your average work uniform!
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
I work with an amazing team of molecular genetic scientists! Everyone is a productive member of the team, and we rely on each other’s collaboration to get things done. Preimplantation genetic testing is a team sport. The success we see at CCRM comes out of our team environment, as it promotes continuous learning and growing within the field of fertility.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
My day looks different almost every time I step into the clinic. My tasks for the day at hand will depend on a number of factors — how many patients do we have currently, samples we have to run in the lab, what experiments are ongoing, etc. I enjoy the variety of consulting with patients as well as the bench work in the lab. However, because I don’t typically have a day that looks the same, I rely heavily on calendar reminders and my phone to keep track of upcoming deadlines and meetings.
How do you recharge or take a break?
During the workday I love stretching my legs for a brisk walk. Just not in the snow! I’m originally from Australia and prefer warmer weather so if it’s snowing, I’ll take a quick walk up and down the stairs to re-energise instead.
Outside of work, I make it a priority to set aside time to meditate. I try to meditate at least four times a week. It really does recharge your batteries and set you up for success throughout the day/week.
What’s your favourite side project?
I spend time promoting education by speaking at conferences, events etc. and talking about the success of infertility treatment in public.
There is little to no education in society about reproductive medicine. Infertility is a disease and the more people who understand that, the more support they will be able to give to others who are going through the process. Education around infertility gives the general population empathy for others who struggle with infertility and takes any shame out of the equation — which is essential to continuing to normalise this important discussion.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Becoming by Michelle Obama.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Never give up.” My dad was a WWII survivor, and his whole life was the perfect testament to not giving up. Science is far from perfect and can be frustrating at times, but the “never give up” mentality pushes me forward. There is a solution. There’s always another way to look at a problem, to achieve your goal, if you never give up.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
There are numerous aspects of infertility and reproductive genetics that we’re actively pursuing. Some of which are in the midst of clinical trials at CCRM as we speak! An example is the development of a universal preimplantation genetic testing platform that can detect different types of genetic mutations, which could improve success for our patients, and result in healthier babies born.