The Turning Point for an Obstetric Intern | New Westlake Students

03, 2022

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At a hospital, Xiaojia Li was watching the flickering black-and-white screen of an ultrasound. In the image, an egg retrieval needle with a thickness of about 1 mm was piercing an ovary, preparing to remove the follicular fluid.

Harvesting an egg can be traumatic, painful and risky compared to getting a sperm sample, Li thought to herself.

In the summer of 2022, Li graduated with a master's degree in medicine from Sun Yat-sen University and came to Westlake University to pursue a doctorate in biology.

Li spent eight years at Sun Yat-sen University, where she regularly practiced in a hospital as an intern. In the obstetrics and gynecology department, she saw anxiety, suffering and pain, but also the joy of new life. "The obstetrics and gynecology department may be the only department in the hospital that will give you good news," Li observed.

A hospital is a place where life and death meet, and where sorrow and joy collide. Could this experience be enough to influence a person to become a Ph.D.?

In 2014, Li was admitted to Sun Yat-Sen University to major in medicine. As the country introduced its two-child policy in 2016, she clearly felt the wave of second children during her internship in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Reproductive Center at the hospital, where she assisted her supervisor with pre-diagnosis.

She recalled the emotions of some patients. "Always comfort, always help, and occasionally heal," quoting the famous words of Dr. Trudeau, while admitting that medicine cannot fix all problems. She encountered older patients who had repeated implantation failures, but still persevered.

As an intern in the hospital, Li clearly felt that the age of the women who came to see the doctor was rising. In general medicine, 35 is seen as a dividing line. After the age of 35, ovarian function declines significantly, and the rate of miscarriage and teratogenicity increases considerably. "For women, the optimal age for childbearing and occupation often coincides," Li said. Fertility is not only about biology, but also a matter of society.

As more women choose to bear children later in life, assisted reproductive technology has continued to advance and improve. So-called "test-tube babies" are often divided into three generations. The first generation of technology refers to the fertilization of an egg outside the body. The second generation of technology refers to the direct injection of a single sperm into the egg under the microscope. The third generation of technology refers to genetic diagnosis or screening before embryo implantation.

Second-generation technology is more suitable for addressing poor sperm motility, while third-generation technology can help overcome some hereditary genetic diseases involving single-gene or chromosome-related disorders.

To live is to understand life, which seems to be a driving force for study and research. During her master's degree, Li began to study the pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome, decreased ovarian reserve and other related diseases, and also began to conduct related research at the cellular and protein levels.

In the initial stage of her Ph.D., Li has already begun to rebuild her knowledge and is busy rotating between two laboratories. It was quite a transition from a master’s degree in medicine to a Ph.D. in biology. To study for a doctorate is to allow yourself to learn about life at a more fundamental level. After all, the “Ph.” in “Ph.D.” stands for philosophy.

According to Li, humans still cannot explain the causes of many diseases. Human cognition itself has boundaries, and science is nothing more than trying to look beyond those limitations for answers.