A tribute to urologist John Fitzpatrick, MCh

July 8, 2014

Professor John Fitzpatrick, MCh, passed away very suddenly on May 14, 2014, having suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. It is no overstatement to say that international urology will never be quite the same.

Dr. FitzpatrickProfessor John Fitzpatrick, MCh, passed away very suddenly on May 14, 2014, having suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. It is no overstatement to say that international urology will never be quite the same.

John was a “larger-than-life” character. Standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, he dominated the room by dint of his stature, his imposing intellect, and the force of his personality. He loved his family, urology, traveling, and life itself. He lived life in the fast lane; the respect and affection in which he was held is apparent from his obituary blog at www.bjuinternational.com/bjui-blog/professor-john-fitzpatrick-1948-2014/, which has so far engendered 155 comments and attracted almost 8,000 views.

Secrets of his success

How did he come to be so well known and so universally liked in North and South America, Africa, Australia, India, and the Far East? There are several explanations:

John was an indefatigable traveler and a hard-working achiever. Always up early, he was engaged and at the very front of the auditorium at international conferences; if he was there, he was certain to make his presence felt. He was also a consummate networker. He seemed to know everybody by name and, like many successful people, he had the knack of making others feel that they were special to him by remembering their names and important aspects of their lives.

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He was a highly popular visiting professor in 40 separate North American institutions, always admired and respected by the trainees and the faculty alike.

Communication was his most “especial forte.” His resonant Irish brogue, combined with wit, intelligence, and eloquence, always made him a pleasure to listen to and be with. He loved the performance aspect of international presentations and was an especially able chairman, keeping speakers to time and always ready with an insightful, but never bullying question.

He was a motivational leader. As the first-ever Irish president of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, he adapted to this role like a duck to water, insisting that our annual meeting that year be held, very successfully, in Dublin. As editor-in-chief he transformed the BJUI into a colorful, well-respected, truly international journal and tirelessly promoted it wherever he went.

He had the foresight to help me launch and develop the Trends in Urology and Men’s Health website (www.trendsinurology.com), realizing before many others the importance of urologists taking a broader perspective of our patients’ health, as opposed to focusing exclusively on urologic issues. He also helped me co-found The Urology Foundation, an increasingly important and successful charity that is now engaged in raising funds to establish “John Fitzpatrick Travelling Fellowships” to allow younger urologists to travel and educate themselves about surgery and research.

Wide, varied interests

John’s interests extended far beyond urology. He was a voracious reader and always maintained a keen interest in history. He presented me with a 577-page tome, “Bismarck: A Life” by Jonathan Steinberg, as light entertainment as I myself recovered from robotic surgery in 2012. He was a gourmet and a considerable expert on fine wine.

Several people have mentioned to me that John “loved life,” and that perhaps underlines the tragedy of his untimely departure from it.  He left this life, as he did so many international conferences, a little early, always eager to move on to the next challenge.

We shall all miss his vibrant personality and his inexhaustible joie de vivre. The brightest of lights in urology has just been extinguished. However, it would undoubtedly have made him happy if, in his memory, all of us were to strive a little harder to develop the attributes that made him the very exceptional man he was.UT

Roger Kirby, MA, MD, is director of The Prostate Centre, London.

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