We interview Noel Fitzpatrick, The Supervet about his veterinary practice.
Supervet, Noel Fitzpatrick reveals some of his greatest successes, including starting Humanimal Trust.
Can you explain some of the new medical techniques which you have developed?
Noel Fitzpatrick: My area of veterinary medicine focuses on orthopaedics (bones and joints) neurology (brain and nerves) and my professional interests focusses largely on minimally invasive arthroscopic (keyhole) surgery, spinal disc disease, limb deformities, joint replacement, regenerative medicine and limb salvage for severe trauma or cancer.
Inventions arise from frustration with the status quo and always in the interest of the patient. I think the three areas in which I hope to have made the greatest innovation are elbow disease, spinal disease and amputation prostheses. I am intensely frustrated that, in my opinion, developmental elbow disease is poorly understood. I believe that DED is a manifestation of physiological overload akin to an earthquake or an avalanche.
We published a paper in 2006 which demonstrated the formation of subchondral microcracks and this was I think, a landmark event. I remember vividly jumping up and down with excitement when the data came through. I think we can do a much better job at preventing and treating elbow disease and I think that we have a moral responsibility to educate breeders and the public in this regard. In terms of inventions, I guess the greatest contribution has been made in spinal fusion and disc replacement and in limb amputation prostheses. I believe that the PerFiTS (percutaneous fixation to the skeleton) device is significantly more advanced than any other implant that has been used for amputation prosthesis in dogs.
Fitzpatrick Referrals and it’s a very exciting time for us. It’s important to me that Fitzpatrick Referrals maintains its family values as an independent company driven by the needs of our patients with no other agenda. We will continue to evolve to best look after the animals and their families we are lucky enough to serve. We always seek to reciprocate their trust with 110% effort and constant evolution. If something is suboptimal, we change it for the betterment of our patients.
What is the Humanimal Trust and ‘One Medicine’?
Noel Fitzpatrick: I founded Humanimal Trust in 2014 but my passion for the cause of One Medicine has been present through most of my life.
The Humanimal Trust drives collaboration between vets, doctors and researchers so that all humans and animals benefit from sustainable, medical progress but not at the expense of an animal’s life. This is One Medicine. Healthcare can and should advance hand in hand. A two-way street between human and veterinary medicine is both possible and necessary for humans and animals to benefit equitably from cutting edge advances.
I truly believe that One Medicine is the only rational solution for finding cures for diseases such as cancer, and the only rational thought process to look after all of the animals in our ever shrinking planet. Now for the first time in history, we as vets can perform some surgeries on companion animals that may not be available in humans for several years because technology is moving forward at a pace and our patients need these options to provide quality of life. It’s all about the welfare of the animal and being an advocate for the animal. It’s a simple fact that in 20 years we will not be doing the same things as we are now and we must responsibly embrace that change for the betterment of our patients.
About 250 years ago vet and human medicine diverged and since then the only real interaction they have had is for human medical drugs and surgical devices to be developed on experimental animals for human benefit.
It is in my view quite ludicrous that the advances which animals themselves facilitated for humans rarely came back to help them with their clinically relevant diseases, and that this will continue unless both vet and human medicine adopt the principles of a new thought process.
What do you love the most about being a vet?
Noel Fitzpatrick: Veterinary medicine is my vocation – it’s my passion. Fitzpatrick Referrals is my home and my colleagues are my family.
Being a veterinary professional, whether you are a vet, a nurse, a ward or a theatre auxiliary, is a vocation of love and sharing. Fitzpatrick Referrals will never be motivated by financial gain alone, but will always be about patient welfare and giving them all of the options available on planet Earth today.
I think about the animals in our wards every hour of every day no matter where I am in the world, and I think of many animals that have gone back to their loving families. I am so grateful for the bond that I have with them. I stay in touch with the practice every day because I feel a deep moral responsibility for both the animals and my colleagues.
What do you think is the most special thing between people and their pets?
I’ve always wanted to be a messenger that animals are integral to family, and over the years I absolutely believe this to be the case. They go through our ups-and-downs – whatever it is that’s going on in our lives. I want to change public perception that from the perspective of love, animals are not as important as people; because in real life, a companion animal is an integral member of a family unit and in fact the creature with whom we share our soul, and our innermost thoughts. Often we cannot do that with people, because they may judge us, whilst with our animal friends the love is unconditional. For disabled people an animal can be a lifeline, for mentally impaired people an animal can be their eyes on the world, for a child an animal can be a sibling, for an old person, a constant companion, and for all people an animal friend is potentially the dearest friend you can ever have.
Unlike us, animals are not governed by their moods, or what happened yesterday. They’re not judgmental or vindictive. Unless they’ve experienced repeated cruelty, they live in the moment, approaching every encounter as a new opportunity to share their love.
That’s why the most vulnerable people often form the strongest bonds with their pets, because they’re most open to that unconditional love. Animals have always been a source of comfort and reassurance to me.
What part of your job is the most important and most rewarding?
I am driven by the need to provide pain-free functional quality of life within an ethically robust environment where all of the options are offered to all families who love an animal. However, the overall objective is much bigger than that, because I also want to give animals a fair deal with new drugs and implants, in return for all that they give to us – and I want to find a way to contribute to the protection of habitats and the conservation of species. I feel very strongly that animals have a right to their bit of the world too, and we must look after them.
I want to give all of the animals all of the options all of the time and I want a team around me that genuinely believes that we can make the world a better place one animal at a time. It all begins and ends with one animal that is loved by one human in one moment in time. That drives me, because if I truly deliver for that animal and for the family that loves that animal – if my team and I truly deliver the very best treatment available in the world today then that really does matter. It really does matter that our little bit of the universe is OK, and by holding that golden nugget of life in our hands and cherishing the love it represents, we genuinely do make the world a better place and we make a statement that society should look after its animals and that unconditional love shared between a human and an animal represents the very best of the human condition
The quality of life of each patient is the paramount consideration. There’s a very clear line in the sand when it comes to making the best decision and that very much depends on individual circumstances. We only ever perform a new procedure when existing options are suboptimal and it’s in the best interests of their welfare. Then, with the family, we have a collective moral responsibility to understand and translate risks versus potential gain, and do our best together moving forward. When conventional solutions are not possible, I will work to find an alternative and I am always conscious of the moral responsibility I have to look after each and every animal as if it were my own personal friend.
Why did you start Dogfest events?
Noel Fitzpatrick: I feel strongly that there are very few feelings in the world as good and as unique as the friendship of unconditional love with a dog. They are integral members of our families and allow us to be the very best we can be. Every day in every way with a look and a lick they unlocking our happiness and the joy of being alive. That is what DogFest was created for. A field full of people who love dogs, where both dogs and folks that love them have the best time of their lives together, in the company of others who share similar values and perspectives, all rejoicing in that special and magnificent bond.
I want people to truly feel this sense of joy and fun in the field – the dogs are so happy and the people are too.
What do you most enjoy while taking part in the Dogfests?
Noel Fitzpatrick: This is the ‘ultimate festival’ for the dog world, the best dogs day out ever and the best day out ever for those who love everything canine. One of the reasons I particularly love being part of the Great Dog Walk is that in one moment in time there are hundreds of people connecting all at once, because they walk together knowing they are among others who feel and think the same way they do. That is incredibly powerful. It’s kind of a community of compassion I think – we all meet friends that we could have for life – both canine and human.
DogFest is an action-packed day for all members of the family, offering a wide variety of activities your dog loves – running, swimming, meeting other dogs, digging, fetching and all the shopping, talks and features that you will find informative and inspiring too.
How is your Border Terrier – Keira these days?
Noel Fitzpatrick: Keira is fantastic, as ever my constant wonderful companion. She is 11 years young now but is still as mischievous as she was as a puppy.