Meet the Ovation Star – Gillian Waite, Embryologist from Austin
Gillian Waite started at Ovation Austin in 2021 after graduating from the University of Georgia. Gillian chose embryology for two reasons: it gave her an opportunity to work in a hands-on, science environment, and it provided her with a career that positively impacted people’s lives.
How did you get into your line of work?
I have an animal science background. I grew up in Georgia, and my family had all sorts of farm animals. We had horses, goats and chickens, and my mom breeds Great Pyrenees, those big white fluffy dogs. I’ve just always had that love for animals, so I decided to take the animal science route in college. I went to the University of Georgia, and I was in the College of Agriculture there. For those years I was in college I worked at the vet school, and I worked in large animal, so I got all that exposure to everything vet-wise. When I graduated, I knew that vet school wasn’t really the route that I wanted to take, so I started talking to other doctors at the vet school. One of the doctors did all of the AI—artificial insemination—and he said, “Hey, you should explore this field of embryology. You can go bovine or human.” I thought, “Okay, we’ll see.” I started looking around for jobs and ended up finding one here at Ovation in Texas for an andrology position. I was told that was a good route to take if I want to move into embryology, so I applied for the job and ended up getting it. I wondered if I wanted to move halfway across the country for a job I wasn’t 100% sure if I was a good fit for, but I decided to do it and moved to Austin. I was working in the IVF andrology role at first, so I would do all the sperm preps for the IVF lab. After five months in that position, they knew I was interested in embryology, so they moved me up to junior embryologist and the rest is history, I guess. I’ve been with Ovation my entire embryology career.
What is an average day like for you?
I would say that, particularly in my lab, every day is a little bit different. We have a good group of embryologists. We finally got up to a full staff—ten embryologists. Having a good size group of people gives us the flexibility to bounce around to different tasks throughout the day, so every day you aren’t doing the same thing. Some mornings I come in, and I do egg retrievals for the first couple hours of the day, and then I will move into embryo transfers after that. On other days, I’ll come in, and I’ll start thawing the embryos for the embryo transfers, or I will do the daily embryo checks which is where we check to see if the embryos are ready for a biopsy and freezing. On other days I might be doing all the “patient talking.” I know that not all labs do this, but in our lab, we do go talk to patients before each of their procedures. Whether they are doing an egg retrieval or an embryo transfer, we have embryologists go speak with them beforehand to make sure that they completely understand what they are doing that day and that they don’t have any questions. It’s nice to do that because it puts a face to the lab. I feel like that’s something that not all labs get. A lot of people never meet their embryologist, but our lab staff can meet patients.
I’m able to do different things every day which is great because tasks don’t get routine. If you are doing the same thing over and over every day sometimes it can get a little mundane, but we have the flexibility of doing a lot of things.
While I do many different things throughout the day, my favorite things to do are probably egg retrievals and embryo biopsies.
What’s your favorite part of working for Ovation?
I do have a great support system here at Ovation. My lab manager, my lab supervisor, and my lab director have all given me strong support here from the day I started andrology and wanted to move into embryology. They always make sure that I have everything that I need to continue training. When I was still in the junior embryologist role, they sent me down to San Antonio for training with IVF Academy doing ICSI training as well as biopsy training for a week. The training streamlined the process of my getting signed off on those two skills. They have also sent me to CRB (the College of Reproductive Biology). They have a meeting every year. This year it was in Las Vegas, so I got to go there and hear a lot of different talks and look at research which was great for me progressing forward in this career. They are good at encouraging us to find ways to grow in our careers. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement to do research, explore going forward with my education, and potentially get a master’s or a Ph.D. Just a very supportive group.
What do you like most about working in fertility care?
I like that I’m able to combine my love of hands-on work in the lab with really being able to impact somebody’s life. I always said before when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career after college that I just wanted to do science and make an impact in somebody’s life. I feel like this job is the perfect combination of the two.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like collecting houseplants. I have a lot at this point. I don’t even know how many. I love Monsteras—I have a couple of those, and they are really beautiful–and all sorts of house plants. I have also started a little garden, and I’m growing all sorts of little herbs and jalapenos and tomatoes in my garden. My newest hobby is trying to learn how to make sourdough bread, which is very difficult, but so rewarding. I also like to play golf. I love exploring different foods. I will eat anything. The more exotic it is, the better, but I love Texas barbecue. It’s my favorite. I love going around to different barbecue places and trying them out. I like trying different Asian dishes as well.
Meet the Team in Austin