Doctor with a difference helps 20,000 bubs into world

Updated April 26 2022 - 1:12pm, first published 5:00am
Dr Lynn Burmeister ... "it really is an amazing job".
Dr Lynn Burmeister ... "it really is an amazing job".

Someone once told Dr Lynn Burmeister, "build it, and they'll come".

The idea launched an assisted reproduction treatment (ART) business with a difference that is booming in inner eastern Melbourne.

For the last four and a half years the star specialist has been following her vision of a more female-friendly, holistic and affordable facility for fertility treatment than what she worked at for most of her career.

Her No. 1 Fertility business, which has premises in the city and East Melbourne, has "the best science", Burmeister says, which includes five $500,000 EmbryoScope Plus incubators that allow scientists to remotely monitor embryos, and draw on built-in artificial intelligence to assess their viability.

There are plans to expand, with a new day surgery at the Epworth in East Melbourne on the cards later this year and hopes for a clinic in Sydney.

No. 1 Fertility now employs 156 staff and Burmeister says more doctors have expressed interest in joining her.

Since starting in obstetrics as a 23-year-old, Burmeister has helped see some 20,000 newborns into the world, she estimates, "probably thousands" of them produced through IVF treatment.

She has been a vocal advocate of egg freezing, which accounts for around 30 per cent of her procedures, and defends the right of older people to have babies using ART.

In January this year, Burmeister was instrumental in getting a planned three-month Omicron-related freeze on IVF procedures in Victoria lifted after speaking to more than 20 media outlets and circulating a petition.

Despite what might look to be a strong commercial incentive, Burmeister insists profit has never been a motivation and says her egg freezing service is "basically break even".

"I could've probably retired rather than set up my clinic but I was very passionate, and I could see that there was a need for this type of business," she says.

"The value of the business for me is not financial, it's coming into the market with something different to offer the patients.

"It's about empowering women - and men like Shaun Resnik."

Resnik, a Burmeister client, was the first single man in Victoria to be approved for surrogacy. His baby, Eli, was born in March this year.

Burmeister also wants to tackle the taboos around infertility.

"It's not embarrassing if you can't have a baby. You might need help. Fifteen per cent of the population need help having a baby, so there's a lot of people struggling out there."

Assisted reproductive treatment has increased by around 50 per cent over the last decade and leapt up over the Covid period.

In the 2009-10 financial year, 9525 patients received ART treatment in Victoria, according to the Victorian Assisted Reproduction Treatment Authority.

In 2021 the number was 15,674 - which included a 20 per cent rise on the previous year.

The multibillion-dollar global industry is predicted to continue to grow as women in Western countries increasingly delay having babies and take up the opportunities that technology offers.

While the websites of some of the city's other ART companies show consultations, medical equipment, and staff in surgical caps, the photos on Burmeister's No. 1 Fertility site display waiting room interiors akin to the foyers of luxury hotels.

Colour-themed spaces are decked out with floral wallpaper, chandelier-style lights, ostrich feathers and inspirational quotes.

There are ottomans, upholstered lounge chairs, coffee tables and smiling staff in matching headsets and T-shirts.

The decor and ancillary treatments like acupuncture and massage are a flamboyant manifestation of Burmeister's approach.

"Our clinics are very beautiful. We take pride in them because we want our patients to feel like they're being nurtured in a beautiful environment that's not hospitalised," Burmeister says.

She believes relaxation is important for women's mental and holistic health at what is "probably one of the most stressful times of your life".

The specialist's own appearance is equally unconventional in the medical realm.

"I still dress glamorous and take pride in my appearance and probably don't look like the stereotypical doctor," she says.

While not immune from the odd bad review, Burmeister is rated very highly by patients for her caring and personalised approach.

Eastern suburbs mother Rosie Giampaolo had her second IVF baby with Burmeister's help seven weeks ago and credits her with making both pregnancies happen.

"We went through quite a few fertility specialists, and all of them have their own qualities, don't get me wrong," she says. "But Lynn is so professional, so respectful, and her service and care is impeccable.

"The previous specialist wasn't willing to do a particular protocol for us ... whereas Lynn did, she tweaked it. She's such a lovely lady, who really cares."

Dr Vicki Nott from Burmeister's clinic with baby Storm, who was created using IVF
Dr Vicki Nott from Burmeister's clinic with baby Storm, who was created using IVF

Tailoring or "tweaking" complex treatment options based on diagnostic investigation is an aspect of her multi-faceted job that Burmeister finds very interesting..

"It's almost like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes [to work out] why is this person not pregnant. "What can we do with her hormones or with his sperm to get the right combination happening and get the Olympic athlete egg and sperm together?" she says.

When she worked with "IVF guru" Zev Rosenwaks in New York, she says, he talked about ART being an art.

"He would say it's like a musical piece - you have to get every note in order for it to sound beautiful at the end."

Being able to better make that music by personally overseeing her patients through the entire IVF process was part of Burmeister's vision for her company.

At Monash IVF, where she was previously employed, she would often only see patients at the beginning and end of the process.

Now she looks at "every single patient going through" and makes sure she's happy with all aspects of their treatment," she says.

Growing up in a "loving, nurturing" family in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, Burmeister was a high achiever at school, who always knew she wanted to go into medicine and help people, she was unhappy that her family couldn't afford to send her to a private school.

She worked hard to get into medicine at Melbourne University and when she started to consider specialising, found she liked the excitement and exhilaration of obstetrics and gynaecology, and the satisfaction of being able to help women.

She was introduced to ART by Australian IVF pioneer Carl Wood, who she met while working as a registrar at Monash Medical Clinic, and developed a love for it.

But going through medicine at Melbourne University hadn't been easy for Burmeister, an outspoken mini-skirt wearing aerobics teacher who wasn't always taken seriously by the male-dominated establishment.

When she encountered blocks to her progress in the field at home, she left for the US, where she obtained a Certificate in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility from Cornell University, studying and working with Professor Rosenwaks, who at the time was treating Celine Dion.

On returning to Melbourne, Burmeister got a job at Monash IVF, where she stayed for 17 years, becoming the company's star fertility specialist.

Well publicised successes - with a ground-breaking ovarian tissue transplant enabling a former cancer patient to get pregnant, and helping then 48-year-old celebrity Sonia Kruger have a baby - increased her status in the field.

Her departure from Monash IVF in 2017 was so significant to the business - which had listed on the stock exchange four years earlier - that it prompted an ASX announcement.

"I loved being with Monash when I started," Burmeister says, "but when it became publicly listed I could see prices going up for patients and I was so busy, and I thought, 'I can do this, why don't I go and just do this myself'."

Gathering some Monash IVF scientists around her, and apparently many of her patients, she broke her contract, prompting legal action by her former employer which resulted in a negotiated settlement restraining her from practising in Melbourne for a year.

Burmeister got around the ban by setting up in Geelong and making use of a friend's limousine business that was "going broke because of Uber" to ferry patients to and from the clinic.

Opening pink-decorated rooms at No. 1 Collins St, she launched the No. 1 Fertility brand and began working on the creation of an IVF lab in Jolimont Rd, East Melbourne, which opened two years ago.

"It is really an amazing job," she says.

"I feel so honoured and lucky that I met Carl Wood all those years ago and he inspired me to do IVF and fertility.

"That's my dream and I feel like that is my gift."

Burmeister clinic staff member Leontee with Frankie, who was created with the help of ovulation induction.
Burmeister clinic staff member Leontee with Frankie, who was created with the help of ovulation induction.


Fifty-one-year-old Rosie Giampaolo and her partner Rob just had their second IVF baby with Dr Burmeister's help seven weeks ago.

Leonardo's brother, Luca, is 22 months old.

"I didn't think I would be at this age having babies, I really didn't," says the eastern suburbs mother who already had five children with her first husband, the youngest of them about to turn 21.

But after she met and married Rob, who didn't have children, Giampaolo had a miscarriage and the couple then spent almost a decade trying to get pregnant.

"I didn't know anything about IVF, getting pregnant had been so easy," Giampaolo says.

Rosie Giampaolo's sons Leonardo and Luca were conceived with donor eggs at Dr Burmeister's clinic.
Rosie Giampaolo's sons Leonardo and Luca were conceived with donor eggs at Dr Burmeister's clinic.

"When I had the five children people would call me 'the baby machine'.

"So when I wasn't able to get pregnant after the miscarriage it was devastating, really hard on the ego, because, here's the baby-making machine not able to produce a child for this wonderful man."

Giampaolo can't speak highly enough of Burmeister, whose personalised attention and care she credits for the couple's IVF success.

She believes the doctor's responsiveness saved her pregnancy with Luca when she ran into problems early on.

Thanks to Burmeister and the "very special lady", Renee, who donated eggs for both pregnancies via the Egg Donors Australia Registry, the two were lucky enough to be able to realise their dream of children together.

"It's been a long haul," Giampaolo says, "but we've got these two beautiful babies and we're just so lucky, we're just so blessed.

The new members of the family have brought it closer together, she says. "They've got so much love, they're just loved and adored. And Lynn's given us that."


Jenny Denton


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