Dr. Beltsos is a medical doctor, mom , CEO and chief medical officer of Vios Fertility Institute, board-certified in OBGYN and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. She completed her residency in OBGYN at Loyola University, followed by a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
She’s also the clinical research director of Vios and participates in a number of research projects and scientific publications. As the REI division education director for OBGYN residency programs of Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Lutheran General Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Chicago, Dr. Beltsos helps educate future OBGYN doctors. She’s the clinical assistant professor for the department of OBGYN at University of Illinois in Chicago.
Dr. Aimee: Angie, welcome.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: Thanks for having me. I think this is so awesome that you have these podcasts and are educating the world.
Dr. Aimee: Our audience loves to have a front row seat to learn about the latest technology in reproductive medicine. Before we get to what you’re doing at Vios, tell us about yourself.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: I am originally from Michigan, born and raised there. I came to Chicago after I finished my training. I spend a lot of time, as we all do, with our work, and I’m very excited to help my patients. When I’m not doing that, I have four children and they all play hockey, so I’m always running to one rink or another. As they are growing and moving to go to school outside of Chicago, we’re now just with the little one and the second-to-little one. I love to cook and try new recipes. I also workout whenever I can.
Dr. Aimee: Awesome. I love following you on Instagram. What drew you to fertility as a medical specialty?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: As an OBGYN doctor, we do have the privilege, I think, of being there when a baby is born. Delivering babies was really quite a cool experience. When I was a medical student, I walked by this door and it said IVF Lab, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, could you imagine being there when that egg and sperm come together for the first time?”
So, I think being able to help build families and also use medicine and deep thinking along with advanced reproductive technologies makes this field unique and really fun as one of the providers of care.
Dr. Aimee: I agree. What do you find the most rewarding with your job?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: The most rewarding thing, and there are many, is that positive pregnancy test that leads to a baby. It’s so awesome. You and I both know those moments where someone has really been in this marathon, up and down with the process, and close to giving up. I think when they’re close to that one-yard line and you can cross that line to touch down, you create a child, but you also create a grandchild, a sibling, and a neighbor. Just all the lives that are touched by the families we create I think is very humbling.
Dr. Aimee: Yes. It’s clearly not just a job for either one of us, so I shouldn’t have used job. It’s really our life’s passion and work. Our heart beats for our patients each and every day.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: TMRW is a cryo-robot. It’s also considered a platform. In short, it’s where we store the eggs and embryos. Traditionally, we keep them in what’s called a doer, it’s like a little freezer that keeps these cells very safe. Today, though, we’ve been asking ourselves, “How do we do this better?” We’re doing a good job, but how can we be even better? So, the TMRW cryo-robot changes the standard of care for keeping these cells frozen.
Dr. Aimee: How does it do that, how does it exactly work?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: It looks almost like one of those vending machines where you put in your request for maybe a soda or something. Here, you plug in a patient’s information and this robotic arm will move into the tank and pick up a beacon. The beacon actually has an RFID code.
RFID codes are all over the world, we use them a lot. For example, you might have an RFID code on your car when you go through the tollbooth. They’re also on expensive clothes, where they remove that little RFID code before you can take it home.
This beacon allows for us to track the safety of the egg or the embryo that is stored in this little straw, so you can continuously monitor that particular beacon 24/7, its temperature, its position. There are 17,000 data points that are constantly emitted from this to recognize patterns and know that everything is safe constantly and monitored.
Dr. Aimee: Wow. How is that different from what you were doing before?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: What we do in IVF clinics all over the world is we have been able to monitor our tanks using outside monitors, sometimes some things inside. There are liquids that help keep things cold. We pour liquid nitrogen, which is what keeps it cold, into a tank, but there’s a lot of manual labor that goes into that. This allows automation, technology, to monitor these things that we were writing with hand labels and watching things with devices that are really good and have kept things very safe, but this is even better.
Dr. Aimee: A lot of people are doing IVF, egg freezing, and embryo freezing. Do you predict that maybe more people will do it now, hearing about this technology? I think a lot of people have that fear that maybe a tank is going to fail or things aren’t going to be tracked very well for them to be comfortable with doing fertility treatment?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: Number one is making sure that where your cells are, your egg or embryo, that they’re safe in the clinic that you have them in. This will transform the standard in which we as scientists and medical doctors manage our tanks, because it will give us a lot more information on a moment-to-moment change. I think as this rolls out it will really be so helpful.
The number one thing here is safety, because we don’t want anything to fall off our radar where a tank could warm and lose that tissue, as it did in some of tragic situations in the last few years.
I think the way that we have to involve you and me in this is to use scientists, use technology, and artificial intelligence in a way that is unique. I think what we’ll find, and I was saying it reminds me we got a new car and all of the bells and whistles, cameras that turn on and off and lights. That type of proactive management to avoid problems is sort of the mindset of TMRW Life Sciences.
Dr. Aimee: I think of this as revolutionary. Those are the kinds of words that I’m thinking of as you’re describing the technology and how it can help people to monitor their eggs, embryos, and sperm, the most precious cells to us.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: The most precious cells.
Dr. Aimee: What you’re saying sounds really awesome as a doctor. As a patient, I wonder is there some sort of — I bet there is and you’re going to tell us about it — monitoring system for the patient to actually see what’s going on with their eggs, embryos, or sperm.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: Due to all of these detecting systems that reside within the tank, what you have is constant data that is coming through. As the doctor or the scientist, we monitor all of that. What will be coming is an app for the patient as well, on your phone, just like you can monitor who is at your front door if the doorbell rings or if you turn on your location. That type of monitoring will be available so that you’ll know that your beacon is safe.
Dr. Aimee: Wow. What have your patients thought of this new service?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: I think that people take this for granted. Even our friends or colleagues are like, “Of course it’s safe.” By the way, where are these cells? Where do you keep them? Are they in your office?
I think people don’t realize that the cryo-repository world where cells are kept, whether it be our embryos from our patients, and even the government tracks cancer cells and research, all of these cells are very important, things like bone marrow. These are kept in similar tanks.
I think what we’re going to see is really disruptive. Think about a taxi and an Uber or Lyft. It really changes the complete interaction of being moved from one location to another. Similarly, this now will change how we keep our cells stored and making sure importantly that the supervision of that information is incredible.
This is obviously a really big project. At Vios, we were the first ones to go live with the TMRW tank. It has been something that will be rolled out not in the United States, but around the world. Being a pioneer in that endeavor has been, as one would expect, a learning curve for the TMRW team for the embryologists. We continue to refine this incredible tool that I think will be very important.
A lot of people don’t realize that the latest technology in being able to freeze something and let it come out and thaw and be as good as it was as a fresh cell has really transformed what services we’ve been able to offer our patients. We think about in the next century, over 300,000,000 will be born from IVF. That’s like the whole United States. That’s a lot of people, a lot of children from this technology.
Dr. Aimee: Tell us about your clinics.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: That is one of those things that you and I have been working on in our career, just to be able to help patients, not only the people that are in our own community or neighborhood, but I think with social media and being able to expand it has been really great to be in different parts of the Midwest and in the country.
Our current locations include Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. The Pacific Northwest will be opened in May and Michigan will start in the Summer. I think those are really great opportunities to reach people that are really needing maybe another set of eyes or a unique way of approaching all of this.
You had asked, too, about innovation, like what else is out there. Something else that popped into my mind is the Violet Camera. This is a device that takes a picture of an egg. As The Egg Whisperer, I know you are obsessed with this concept of just egg health and how we can help make that ingredient as strong and as healthy as possible and then understand it.
The Violet Camera, which is from Future Fertility, the company out of Canada, and Dr. Dan Nayot’s brainchild, takes a picture of an egg and it can tell you how likely is that egg to result in a good embryo that could make a beautiful baby. It uses also artificial intelligence and technology to create an algorithm. It’s pretty cool.
I think what you and I and many others feel very passionate about is that we can’t practice medicine like it’s 1990 or 2000. We must stand on the shoulders of giants. It can be scary and those are things where you’re trying new things, but we have to continue to move that mark forward.
Dr. Aimee: I love you and I love everything that you’re doing. I imagine that as a woman it hasn’t always been easy in quite a male-dominated world. You would never know looking at you that you had any challenges. I applaud you for just being so fierce and being a revolutionary.
Dr. Angie Beltsos: You are so kind. Really, the master is the one I’m talking to, Aimee. And you do it beautifully.
We were talking with one of my friends today just that some of this has to be intentional. We love working with amazing women and fantastic men. Really, it’s about the person, but also being thoughtful that we do give opportunity to those that sometimes you kind of overlook. We were just saying that, as I run the Midwest Reproductive Symposium International, and it’s a fertility meeting that is held in Chicago, but it has a global audience. Just being thoughtful to include young, vibrant women that are coming into the field, and men, and not just include people that speak at every program.
That same concept of the opportunities we got and people that took a chance on us, putting that hand down and helping someone. Giving forward, I think, is really important.
Dr. Aimee: I agree. You’re certainly doing that with all of the training programs that you’re a part of and all of the educating that you’re doing. Thank you.
Thank you for being on the show, Angie. Is there anything else that you want to add?
Dr. Angie Beltsos: I think one thing is that when you’re trying to get pregnant, if you stumble upon things, listen to some of the things that Dr. Aimee is doing. That is don’t stop. Once you have one obstacle, you can think outside the box. If the regular things don’t work, which we call evidence-based medicine, then we have to think about tier two, three, and four, and innovation.
By definition, innovation means there’s not all of the evidence yet, because it’s new. We have to be thoughtful and safe and transparent, but also continue to push the envelope. This is your time to get pregnant. This is your time to freeze your eggs. I think we have to be your cheerleader and encourage you to not give up, but also to be really thoughtful because it takes medicine and science, and then of course that miracle of life.
Thank you for having me. I’m super excited that I got this chance to be with you. It’s like hanging out with a superstar.
Dr. Aimee: Thanks, Angie. I feel the exact same way about you.