Joining Conceptions in 2017, Kim LaRocque has been one of the many “miracle workers” of the embryology team. We recently had the chance to sit down with Kim to talk about all things embryology and get to know her a bit better. After all, embryologists are people too!
Q: What was your childhood like?
A: I grew up in Newcastle, DE in a middle-class family. My dad was an electrician and my mom worked at the post office. My mom was super adamant about doing well in school, so I was always a really good student and took my studies seriously. My mom’s family had (and still runs) a farm in Tennessee. I used to spend time there every summer. I remember spending all my time with the goats, cows, and pigs. My hair was always a mess, and I was covered in dirt from head to toe. It was during these summers I developed my love for animals, particularly horses (although I never had one – they had a mule), and my deep desire to become a veterinarian when I “grew up”.
Q: How did you end up becoming an embryologist?
A: That’s actually quite a story. Back when I went to college, there weren’t too many women entering the sciences. I guess my fear of science kept me from pursuing a career with animals. Instead, I went to the University of Delaware and received a BA in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies and then went on to get my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Rhode Island. I basically wanted to be Frazier! The only problem was, I hated it! I quickly realized that I had made a career path mistake. But I was no quitter, so I continued my schooling and ultimately worked as a therapist for a few years.
I decided I needed a change, so I packed up my possessions and moved out to Colorado. I was going to continue with therapy in Colorado but after some soul searching, I decided that a change of scenery also meant a change in career too. I enrolled at Colorado State University to pursue my childhood goal of becoming a veterinarian. While taking my basic science course requirements, I volunteered at the agriculture research center in their Equine Reproductive Program. This was the ideal way to work my way into vet school, so I pursued a master’s degree in equine reproduction.
Through my master’s program, I learned so much about the similarities in human and equine reproduction. I was fascinated! But, the seasonal breeding of horses (only once a year) was problematic for me. I wanted to be hands-on in a more consistent way. I shared my thoughts with the right people at the right time and was offered a Ph.D. opportunity through the research lab in human reproduction at Colorado State. Fast forward a bunch of years, and here we are today!
Q: What do you love most about what you do as an embryologist?
A: I love helping families realize their dream of having a child, whether it’s their first or 20th attempt. It’s absolutely fantastic! I have personal experience with the fertility journey, so I understand both sides of the equation. Until you go through the fertility journey, you really don’t have a clear understanding of what the journey entails. It can be frightening. Patients are scared when they come through our doors. Before my own fertility issues, I really didn’t understand. The pain is real when you have a deep desire to expand your family and struggle with your fertility.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give a patient undergoing fertility treatments?
A: I tell patients you need to try everything they can so they don’t have any regrets 10 years down the road. And, if you still can’t conceive, you know you did everything in your power and you can have closure. In my own experience, I tried a round of fertility treatment but was unsuccessful. Tried an egg donor (since I was 40 years old at the time and I thought maybe my eggs were too “mature”) and actually got pregnant twice but miscarried both times. I had a heart-to-heart with myself and realized that this was too much wear and tear on my body. It was time to concede. But I had no regrets because I did everything within my power to have a baby.
Q: What makes Conceptions different from other fertility centers?
A: I think the biggest differentiator is being privately owned. Not having to answer to a corporate entity gives us the chance to give the patient a higher level of care. Our smaller size allows us to have a better connection with our patients. We spend more time getting to know them and answering their questions and are more readily available to them with they need us most. Patients see the benefit of a smaller center and really appreciate our “patients first” approach – it gives us more time for education and understanding.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about living in Denver?
A: Honestly, the weather. Growing up on the east coast, it rained a lot, and even when it was nice out it was still kind of grey. Here, it hardly ever rains, and the sky is a shade of brilliant blue I can’t even explain. And the mountains! Oh my goodness! There is something reassuring and soothing about the mountains (although I don’t get up to them enough).
Q: What can we find you doing when you’re not working?
A: I spend lots of time watching my son’s soccer games and just spending as much time as we can together. We’re your basic, ordinary family. I also spend as much time as possible at the stable with my horse.
Q: Pop culture question time. What was your first concert?
A: I didn’t see too many concerts when I was young. My first was during my undergrad years at the University of Delaware. A group of us went into Philadelphia and saw U2. That was an amazing show! Now that I’m in Denver, I like to catch a show every once in a blue moon at Red Rocks – especially when Lyle Lovett comes to town!