September – 1991
When I first applied for the Michener study-leave I anticipated using the funds to allow for an extended period of time to do additional in depth research on new reproductive technologies; an area in which I have concentrated my work for the past several years.
Shortly after receiving the grant, a proposal for a book on test tube babies that my agent had been attempting to sell for some time, was finally purchased by Simon and Schuster. With the sale of my book, the study-leave became an even more welcome and important component of my research plans.
In my application I proposed using the time afforded by the study leave to gain a more comprehensive understanding of some of the new research in this field. Although once my book was sold I enlarged the score of my research to incorporate other areas, an examination of new research and techniques in this field remained a priority.
In mid September I travelled to Chicago to attend the ‘First International Symposium on Pre-implantation Genetics’. This conference was designed to bring together all of the specialists from around the world doing embryo research. I spent an entire Saturday at a small workshop for scientists learning a technique known as micromanipulation; which allows sperm to be surgically inserted into human eggs. This technique is increasingly being used in male related infertility with in vitro fertilization, and also has other applications. The remainder of the conference was spent attending sessions and conducting interviews with various experts specific to my own research.
The remainder of the winter and early spring was spent doing intensive reading, telephone interviews, and data base research.
In May I attended another small conference in New York, again for physicians and scientists working in this field. This conference was devoted primarily to the clinical applications of new reproductive technologies. One of my main reasons for attending this conference was that one of the world’s leading scientists in this field, Dr. Alan Trounson, an Australian, was one of the main speakers. As well, I was able to arrange a long interview with Dr. Trounson. This conference was valuable, because in addition to providing information on clinical applications, several of the speakers addressed legal and ethical issues associated with such recent techniques as donor eggs.
In part, through, the funding from the study-leave, in June and July I attended two major international conferences in Paris. The first, an assessment of these technologies, primarily from a sociological perspective, was organized by a network of social scientists from Europe and North America, and was the first of its kind. I was privileged to be a speaker at this conference discussing the health risks to women of these technologies.
The second conference, the 7th World Congress on ‘In Vitro Fertilization’ and ‘Assisted Procreations’, is the major scientific and medical conference held in this area – these congresses are held every two years. It is an essential conference for anyone working in this field. The four day conference was an intense series of lectures, workshops, poster presentations and plenaries. I conducted numerous interviews.
The funds and by extension, the time provided by the study-leave was invaluable. Of particular importance to me is the flexibility of this grant. The assumption by the Foundation seems to me to be that the journalist is serious in their intentions, and that they be permitted to determine their work and schedule independently.
I was pleased to be a recipient of this grant, and will be equally pleased to acknowledge the contribution of the Foundation in my book.
The Michener-Deacon Fellowship is granted annually to a mature journalist for four months’ leave to allow the recipient time to complete a project that serves the public interest and enhances the journalist’s competence.