Dr. Botros Rizk, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was brimming with excitement earlier this month as the Nobel Prize for Medicine awardee was announced.
Dr. Robert Edwards, his longtime mentor and professor emeritus at the University of Cambridge, was recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the development of human in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy.
“Dr. Edwards is an incredible man - one of the most supportive and delightful people that I have ever worked with,” said Dr. Rizk, who specializes in reproductive endocrinology.
Dr. Edwards’s achievements made it possible to treat infertility, a medical condition affecting a large percentage of the population. During the 1950s, Dr. Edwards had the vision that IVF could be useful as a treatment for infertility, and he began working to discover important principles for human fertilization.
On July 25, 1978, the world’s first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born. Today, IVF is an established therapy throughout the world, and approximately four million individuals have been born following IVF.
Dr. Rizk trained with Dr. Edwards for a decade, completing his fellowship and working as a faculty member at the University of Cambridge. “I was the youngest fellow in his group, and one of the first fellows after the first successful IVF birth,” Dr. Rizk said. “Dr. Edwards was the most famous scientist during that time, and I was honored that he took the time to mentor me. It shows how dedicated and sincere he was.”
Their long-term collaboration is evident in many ways. In March 2008 in Alexandria, Egypt, Dr. Rizk presented Dr. Edwards with an award from the Middle Eastern Fertility Society at the IVF 30-year celebration. In addition, Dr. Edwards has written a forward for one of Dr. Rizk’s books, titled “Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.” The two have also collaborated on scientific papers and abstracts.
“Dr. Edwards was very modest, but at the same time a very powerful man,” Dr. Rizk said when reflecting on his time at Cambridge. “He was really like a father to me, not just a mentor.”
Dr. Rizk said learning from such a great mentor has helped him to become a better mentor to others. “Dr. Edwards always worked so hard behind the scene, helping us with our careers and always giving everyone a chance,” Dr. Rizk said. “Hopefully I can apply a percentage of his mentoring and work to wherever I am in his honor.”