30 years of IVF in Genk: a Laudatio to Prof. dr. Willem Ombelet - Know where you're going and have a strong stated mission...

It was with great honor that the Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg received the celebration of the 30 years of IVF in Genk and retirement ceremony of Prof. dr. Willem Ombelet. During this ceremony, his outstanding work was duly recognized by national and international participants, key opinion leaders in the field of Assisted Reproduction. 

After working determinedly for over 30 years, our director, the gynaecologist Prof. dr. Willem Ombelet, presented his work and received a much deserved laudatio for his efforts during these past 30 years. Indeed, Ombelet started his career in infertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) in 1984 in Pretoria, South Africa continuing a remarkable career ever since. Shortly after, in 1987, he based his activity at the Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg (ZOL) hospital in Genk, Belgium, where he has been head of the infertility department for 14 years and has lead peak clinical research during the past years.

As an early contribution to the field of Assisted Reproduction he organized and chaired seven ‘Andrology in the Nineties’ meetings, actuallly shaping the views and facts in this field as are known today. His continous work and broad interest in the field gained him a PhD degree from the University of Leuven, in 1998, with a dissertation on ‘The value of sperm morphology and other semen parameters in diagnosis and treatment of human subfertility’ and later he founded the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology and the Walking Egg non-profit organization, both major outcomes of his carrer.

As a matter of fact, guided by his keen view on the field of human reproduction and an open vision in the future, through his organizations Ombelet has fathered innovative projects for the benefit of society and our medical community. His efforts through the Walking Egg non-profit organization to create a cost-effective IVF workflow have lead to the development of a one-stop infertility diagnosis clinic and the Walking Egg simplified IVF system giving hope to the many people suffering from infertility in lack of treatment due to a non-existing accessibility or due to its cost worldwide. Plus, with this work, he has engaged to this cause several specialists, personalities and organizations to work towards 'universal access to fertility care', a global issue that he has had the courage to put under the scope of major public health societies and health care providers throughout the years. 

Furthermore, as a result of his unorthodox and integrated view of (in)fertility, reproduction and medicine, Ombelet, in partnership with the world renowned artist Koen Vanmechelen, created the open access journal Facts, Views & Vision in ObGyn. A visionary journal distinct from the status quo of other scientific journals offering a forum for scientific, socio-cultural, ethical, philosophical, health-economic and political debates related to the fields of human reproduction, reproductive health and gynaecology. 

With a clear path and a strong stated mission, Prof. dr. Ombelet has inspired us with his tireless determination. He will remain active at the ZOL hospital in Genk and in his organization for the upcoming years. Finally, with these lines we want to congratulate him and thank him for his outstanding efforts and leadership which have not only lead to major outcomes for science and society, but have also brought us together as a team at the Walking Egg non-profit organization.