Southern Enterprise Awards 2020

90 | Southern Enterprise Awards 2020 Sep201041 Best Fertility Clinic - Sussex Carole Gilling-Smith, CEO and Medical Director, founded the Agora Clinic in Hove in 2007 with a single mission; to change the way fertility services are delivered. Thirteen years on from that beginning, the clinic has become the deserving winner of the title of Best Fertility Clinic in Sussex as part of the Southern Enterprise Awards 2020 from SME News Magazine. Join us as we delve into what makes the clinic so impressive, and why Carole’s journey to cultivate success for both herself and her clinic has been one of immense success. Having previously come from a busy London IVF clinic, Carole was all too familiar with the heartache of repeated failed IVF attempts, and of seeing wishful parents feel like a number in an IVF production line. She knew that good fertility care had to combine medical expertise with emotional wellbeing, and that patients were not getting that at the clinics she had experience of in London. As such, Carole took it upon herself to develop and open her own fertility clinic in Sussex back in 2007. The last thirteen years have been incredibly successful, though not a time that has been free from its fair share of challenges. At the Agora Clinic, Carole ensures that every patient is provided with an individualised package of both fertility care and emotional support throughout their treatment, from the moment they first contact the clinic right the way through to a successful pregnancy and beyond. However, IVF treatment can be a brutal process, and the clinic is also there to help with the emotional rollercoaster that is a failed treatment cycle, which is sadly a part of the story for so many prospective parents. Scientific excellence, combined with emotional support, has become the ethos of the Agora Clinic. As a result, it has clearly distinguished itself amongst all of the IVF clinics in London and the South East by having the highest IVF success rates per embryo transferred across all age group, based on the latest figures published by the Fertility Clinic watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Carole herself can certainly look back proudly over the last thirteen years of hard work, especially when looking at the wealth of excellent success rates and seeing them place the Agora Clinic as the seventh best in the United Kingdom. Supported by a thirty-strong team of dedicated medical consultants, embryologists, fertility nurses, and administrative staff, Carole and everyone else works tremendously hard to deliver the very best in fertility care for every single patient. Carole’s story in fertility began at an early stage in her career as a consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Whilst working, she gathered and amassed an extensive research portfolio on a wide range of fertility issues that spanned three decades. However, it is her dedication to medical advancement, combined with an entrepreneurial mind, that has led to her always innovating the way fertility care can be delivered, pushing the boundaries more and more. In 1999, Carole was responsible for pioneering the UK’s first program of fertility care for those living with HIV, completely transforming the lives of those who had, until then, believed that having a family was out of their reach. After moving to Brighton from London, Carole soon recognised another minority group that was not being catered for. Within a very short window of her moving to Brighton, Carole set up a bespoke program of fertility care for those in the LGBTQ+ community. That care has extended into the creation and development of the Agora Clinic, and the clinic is now one of the leading centres in the United Kingdom for same-sex couples and trans individuals trying to conceive through IVF or surrogacy. Carole was also one of the first to explore ways of supporting those who did not have NHS funding for their treatment, and the Agora Clinic was the second clinic in the country to launch patient multicycle and refund finance options to make treatment more affordable and achievable. Fast forward to 2020, and the success was continuing to come for Carole and the clinic. However, as COVID-19 emerged and the nation fell into lockdown, the Agora Clinic was on standby to support its patients. Carole had embraced every new technology available, in order to ensure that her patient’s journey was seamless, easier, and more time-efficient than before. She introduced online systems to streamline the many different consent forms that needed to be signed by patients at the start of each treatment program, and also set up a mobile app to enable them to communicate rapidly with the clinic when needed. Zoom consultations, rather than face-to-face consultations, were already in place for patients who lived further afield, but it was extended to include those who wanted to work remotely for the Agora Clinic. All of this technology was embraced at just the right time, ensuring that when treatments were temporarily paused between the start