Academic urology is a great and also very enjoyable pastime. When you have made a name for yourself, remember that people listen to you. You owe it to them to maintain the same good and honorable principles that have guided you through your life and speak the truth as you see it, even if some people may not like what you are saying.
—John M. Fitzpatrick, MCh, FRCSI
His life was gentle, and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”
I have too many positive memories of John to regale you with here,” said Roger Kirby, MD, in a tribute to his close friend and colleague, John Michael Fitzpatrick, MCh, FRCSI, who died suddenly on May 14, 2014, at the age of 65. “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (he never tired of reminding me that he reached the summit before me), trekking in Nepal, cycling in Sicily, Malawi, and Madagascar—John was always ‘up for it’…. Everywhere he went he made friends, took interest in everyone he met, and communicated in his own unique, eloquent, and quintessentially Irish style.”
Born on July 15, 1948, Dr. Fitzpatrick became one of Europe’s most highly regarded medical opinion leaders. During an interview, he said that one of the factors that had a great influence on his life was being educated by Jesuits during his undergraduate studies at Gonzaga College, Dublin. At Gonzaga, Dr. Fitzpatrick developed his lifelong love of history and literature, especially William Shakespeare.
Following his undergraduate studies, Dr. Fitzpatrick intended to go to Oxford to follow his passion for literature, but a sudden change in plans led to his entering the University College Dublin to study medicine. He did his clinical internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, where he was strongly influenced by the head of surgery, Patrick FitzGerald, MD. “He helped me develop an interest in scientific pursuits and showed me that a surgeon could also make a meaningful contribution in the scientific field—another lesson that I never forgot,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.
While doing his residency at St. Vincent’s, he decided to become a urologist, largely due to the influence of two mentors, noted urologic surgeons Drs. Frank Duff and Dan Kelly. “They were both superb surgeons and I was able to learn outstanding technique and the beauty of urologic surgery,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.
In 1977, seeing a need to further his education as a surgeon, he moved to the Institute of Urology at St. Peter’s Hospital in London. He looked back at his period in London with fondness, remembering all the mentors and friends, especially his boss, John Wickham, MD. “He was my mentor and a close friend. His sense of innovation and his wish to change dogma was something I had not seen before,” noted Dr. Fitzpatrick.
After completing his training in London, Dr. Fitzpatrick returned to Dublin in 1981 as a consultant urologist and senior lecturer in Urology in the Meath and St. James’s Hospitals and Trinity College Dublin. He maintained a high surgical workload along with laboratory research. While there, a short posting of several months in Mainz, Germany, launched what would become a career-long interest in urologic research.
In 1986, he was appointed Professor of Surgery and consultant urologist in the Mater Hospital and University College Dublin. Although he was gregarious and well liked, his independent spirit and enthusiasm for initiating change would lead to confrontations with more conservative doctors.
“I would recommend for young urologists to have a balanced view about everything, but if you believe in something, you must proceed with it to try to bring it about. Do not let confrontation prevent you from bringing what you believe to be important into reality. There are many reasons why people might try to hinder you, but if you believe something to be right, then run with that idea,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick during an interview.
Not one to let confrontation deter him, he remained on as Professor and Chairman for 25 years at the Department of Surgery, Mater Hospital, and the University College in Dublin. He also served as registrar and consultant in various hospitals and universities in Dublin and London.
Dr. Fitzpatrick once described his tenure as Editor-in-Chief of BJU International from 2003 to 2012 in the following way: “There have been many aspects of my career that I have enjoyed and felt fulfilled by, but none more so than leading the BJU International. It has been a post where creativity can be allowed to run riot.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick also served as President of the British Association of Urological Surgeons and the Irish Society of Urology. From January 2012 until his death, he was Head of Research for the Irish Cancer Society. Aside form his numerous awards from prominent medical societies, he wrote and coauthored nearly 20 books, more than 90 book chapters, and over 400 scientific and scholarly papers published in international, peer-reviewed journals on a wide range of urologic topics.
Immediately following the announcement of his death, tributes poured in from around the world, such as one from Prokar Dasgupta, MD, who called Dr. Fitzpatrick one of his heroes: “He was on my Professorial interview panel and asked me very tricky questions. Some of them were impossible to answer at the time but now bring a smile to my face. He literally helped me down Mount Etna on an ultra difficult trip to Sicily. Afterwards he showed me a rather embarrassing photograph of me asleep on the slopes of this mountain. I hadn’t even realized that I had dozed off.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick ended an essay in Legends of Urology with the following passage: “I have one final thing to say. Academic urology is a great and also very enjoyable pastime. When you have made a name for yourself, remember that people listen to you. You owe it to them to maintain the same good and honorable principles that have guided you through your life and speak the truth as you see it, even if some people may not like what you are saying.” ■
Editor’s Note: Visit a tribute to Professor John Fitzpatrick by Dr. Roger Kirby at www.bjuinternational.com/bjui-blog/professor-john-fitzpatrick-1948-2014.