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Obituary: Andy Glew, embryologist at the heart of his field

20 April 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1043

Andy Glew lost his eight-month battle with a brain tumour on 27 March aged 54, an example of what bravery, courage and acceptance truly mean. 

As a former colleague and friend, I knew Andy to be a man dedicated to his field, a successful clinical scientist and entrepreneur, and always humble about his achievements. His cheeky smile and charismatic laugh inspired those around him with his love and zest for life. This tribute to Andy combines memoirs he began writing during his illness with contributions from friends, family and colleagues. 

Andy's career started in 1984 in Cambridgeshire, where he worked with Dr Robert Moore and Dr Chris Polge at a government funded institute specialising in animal reproduction and genetic research. His job was varied, with everything from injecting sheep in the morning through to collecting semen samples and taking animals to abattoir to retrieve the ovaries. 

This work led the way for Andy to develop his interest in human IVF. He moved to the Cromwell Hospital in London where he was initially assigned to perform research on eggs but was quickly recognised as a valuable member of the clinical team. 

Andy later moved to the Human Wellington Hospital with Professor Ian Craft and had fond memories of travelling to Mexico City with the 'Prof' to advise on the set up of a new clinic. During this time, Andy formed a strong relationship with Michael Ah-Moye. Together, they set up one of the first independent IVF clinics at Holly House Hospital in Essex in 1989, which later relocated to become Herts and Essex Fertility Centre.  

 'Andy was so proud of his new unit, and the success rates. When it was first set up, he was almost as nervous as the patients waiting for the results of pregnancy tests and was as happy as them when they were positive.'

The Holly House team was a small family, many of the embryologists who had the honour of working with him have gone on to run laboratories across the country. 

'Andy was always smiling and happy. I never saw or remember him being in bad form, he never appeared to have an off day. That is also the memory of all who worked with and knew him. Nobody could ever remember him not smiling.'

'Andy was one person who was always willing to help at any hour. He always believed in sharing his knowledge and as many of his close friends would say that Andy's infectious smile and his jovial sense of humour made him a truly admirable and inspirational human being.'

In 2013, Andy proudly established his own clinic, Simply Fertility, with his second wife and colleague Sarah. He was able to apply all of his skills, whether it be a difficult ICSI in the laboratory, introducing new technology or leading business management projects.

Andy was honoured to witness the advancements in his field, 'from glass petri dishes to everything being disposable', and his entrepreneurial flare characterised his approach: he worked for example with equipment providers to develop electronic witnessing, now common-place in laboratories around the world. His impressive track record has earned him both national and international acclaim.

'We used to meet most years at the annual ESHRE meeting. I was always assured of a big smiley welcome and a breath-taking hug. It used to be said that if you didn't know Andy Glew then you didn't work in IVF.'

Andy was a co-founder of the Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE), ensuring the professional status of embryologists. He hosted the first ever ACE conference and served with many professional bodies. 

'Andy taught me what it is to be an honest scientist. He always had two feet on the ground and was incredibly grateful for his fulfilling career. I even remember him presenting results at a conference which critiqued his own performance.' 

Andy was accepting of his diagnosis – when asked if he was angry or fed up, he would reply, 'What would be the point in that?' His positivity, kindness, selflessness and compassion will no doubt continue in all those whose lives he has touched. An incredible father, stepfather, son, brother, uncle, husband, businessman and embryologist.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures, a memorial to celebrate Andy's life will take place later in the year. Andy wished for a 'big' occasion with the coming together of family, friends and colleagues. Please keep checking BioNews for an announcement of further details.

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