Integrative Fertility Symposium - A Review

Every year we attend this symposium...

Hosted by: Integrative Fertility (IF) Symposium and American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM)
Where: Vancouver, British Columbia
When: April 28-May 1, 2016

Submitted to:

By: Jane Cheung, R.TCMP

What a great time to be an Acupuncturist in Canada!

It was with great excitement and high expectations that I arrived in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia this year to attend the 2016 Integrative Fertility Symposium (IFS). I was not able to attend the inaugural IF Symposium last year but have only heard positive feedback about it both in person and over social media so this conference rose to the top of my “to-do” list for professional development this year. I was definitely not the only one with that idea as the conference sold-out again this year. Congratulations to Lorne Brown, Dr. TCM, the IF Symposium co-chair and his committee, for organizing and hosting this world-class Acupuncture Conference. It certainly did not disappoint.

First, a little bit about the locale. I flew in from Toronto and, after a quick jaunt on the Skytrain (it’s like a super-clean subway that runs on a monorail, like DisneyWorld), I found myself at the conference hotel, the Delta Vancouver Suites, which is nestled right downtown near the waterfront harbour and famous English Bay beach. What a great spot! Besides being right on the ocean with the mountains in the background, I found myself surrounded by cool cafes and a variety of restaurants serving local favourites such as fish tacos, grilled (and very fresh) wild salmon, steak, and even a Japanese version of a hotdog at Japadog. There was also some fantastic retail shopping in the area. Even though it may put a dent in the pocket book, Vancouver always nourishes the stomach and the soul! You can almost breathe in the tranquility in this incredible locale.

The theme for this year’s IF Symposium was “Nourishing the Soil Before Planting the Seed”. As a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner with a focus on women’s health including fertility support, this theme rang true for me. But in addition to TCM practitioners, the IFS 2016 also welcomed all healthcare practitioners including MDs and Naturopaths and provided a wonderful, inter- professional, and integrative environment for us all to learn about reproductive health issues.

The conference itself ran from Friday April 29th to Sunday, May 1st with a pre-symposium day on the Thursday. Having free Wi-Fi access in the conference Centre and being able to download handouts for the sessions via the IF Symposium online account was very useful, cool and environmentally responsible. But most impressive was the roster of speakers for IFS 2016. These included Fertility Acupuncturists, TCM experts, Naturopaths, Functional Medicine Specialists, Reproductive Endocrinologists, and Urologists – truly a unique collection of integrative practitioners – and they were all focused on teaching us the latest about fertility and collaborative care. The topics ranged from how to optimize fertility naturally, how to support IVF, and how to improve live birth outcomes. Even though a lot of the information being shared was “cutting edge” knowledge backed by recent studies, many of the

participants, myself included, were impressed by the practical focus. Much of what we learned were things that can be meaningfully applied to daily practice.

If we break it down day by day, the pre-symposium session allowed participants the opportunity for interaction with some of the most sought-after presenters:

  • Randine Lewis: Fertility Retreat for Practitioners

  • Debra Betts and Sabine Williams: Nurturing the Fetus

  • Sharon Weizenbaum: Habitual Miscarriage: Diagnosis and Treatment with Case Studies (Herbal


    Then the Symposium proper started off with the charismatic NYC’s “fertility goddess” keynote address “Making Babies: Running a Fertility Practice” by Jill Blakeway, author of the bestselling “Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility” and host of a weekly podcast “Grow. Cook. Heal.” She shared some of the secrets to her success and emphasized the importance of educating the public by “spreading the word authentically” in your public relations as the key to growing a thriving practice.

    From there, multiple sessions were run concurrently throughout the weekend. There were too many to acknowledge completely here but the full list of presentations with short bios for the presenters can be found at the IFS 2016 website. Besides the pure fertility topics for both men and women, there were also sessions addressing practice management, practitioner wellness, clinical case studies with acupuncture and herbs, lifestyle and diet – and everything in between. I particularly enjoyed topics connected with Classical Chinese Medicine as well as an Integrative approach to Functional Medicine. But it was truly a challenge to try to decide what to attend and how to fit it all into my schedule (note: for a fee, you can purchase recordings of almost all of the lectures at the 2016 IF Symposium).

    Beyond the lectures, there were other interesting events such as the Lunch and Learn panels which proved to be lively discussions:

  • Forbidden Points and Blood Moving Herbs during Luteal and Early Pregnancy

  • How to Develop a Working Relationship with IVF Clinics and Reproductive Urologists

    And the learning didn’t stop there! There were several books (and nice additions to my growing TCM library) being sold at the venue including one from the aforementioned Lorne Brown, “Missing the Point: Why Acupuncturists Fail and what they Need to Know to Succeed”. What a special treat for participants of IFS 2016 to have this book available fresh off the press.

    As I usually find with international conferences, the unstructured break time is precious. Not just as a time to digest what was presented but it’s always great to have an opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, visit the exhibitors, or just gaze out at the mountains. Speaking of digestion, the food and refreshments offered were plentiful and healthy including vegan and gluten-free options.

    If you will indulge me, I’ll share some of my personal highlights from IFS 2016. One of my favourite speakers was Sharon Weizenbaum and I enjoyed her explanation of clinical cases by referring to the classics to give a deeper level of understanding. How fantastic it was to be part of a room full of practitioners sharing some “Aha!” moments! It is also great to see many new speakers from the United States, New Zealand, and United Kingdom. I had the pleasure of attending the two-part lecture by Jani White, author of the new 4 part series “Fertile Fizz” from London, England, titled “Emotional

Impediments to Conception”. She has a lively and warm presence and her mind is like a fertility encyclopedia. Other topics I attended also covered interpreting the BBT pattern and functional blood chemistry for fertility – useful tools to implement in my daily practice. Overall, I came away with a deeper appreciation of the blend between Classical Chinese Medicine with Functional Medicine and how that is essential for a TCM practitioner in a world of integrative health.

On top of all of this, somehow the organizers even managed to arrange for the weather to be sunny for the duration of the event. Impressive!

I would have to say the only down side (and this is just a personal pet peeve) was having to pay the registration fee in U.S. dollars for a conference that is in Canada! However, I truly appreciated the efforts that were made to make this symposium inspirational and successful.

I recommend to save the dates for next year March 30 to April 2, 2017 with IFS 2017 truly becoming bigger and better with an expanded focus which will cover:

  • Fertility
  • Pregnancy
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s Health (menopause, gynecology, etc.)

It was truly a very NOURISHING time spent in Vancouver and I can’t wait to see what GROWS from the knowledge and inter-professional relationships that we planted here in Vancouver.