Dr Adam Fitzpatrick, consultant cardiologist, electrophysiologist, and leading authority on blackouts, spoke to the Manchester Cardiovascular Society for an exclusive interview where he talked about his ‘blackouts’ clinic set up in 2007 and the challenges in his line of work.
Dr Fitzpatrick, tell us a bit about your background.
My father was in the air-force and I was the first person in my family to go to university. I suppose I was rather unsure about the variety of options but it then narrowed to a choice of either doing medicine or law. In fact, I did A-levels in arts and eventually did a one year conversion to do medicine. I then trained at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College in London.
Why did you specialise in cardiology?
It was quite a difficult choice. Cardiology was the right combination of research and intellectual challenge, with big content for procedural activities. There are cardiologists involved in stenting for patients with angina, others look at congenital disease of the heart, and my particular area of interest has been heart rhythm disorders.
My Facebook news feed is a succession of splendid successes. Over the last couple of days, one of my friends has gleefully announced her engagement; another received over 200 “likes” after uploading a photo in which he jubilantly held his completed PhD thesis aloft; and several people have been delighted to declare that they have won places on prestigious graduate schemes or been promoted at work. This morning, someone posted the following triumphant status update: “I have mastered soufflés!”
I’m pleased that my friends are doing really well. They’re kind and talented people. They deserve loving relationships and wonderful careers. However, upon reading about their outstanding achievements, it’s difficult not to feel pangs of envy and a crushing sense of inferiority. “Why am I still a novice at making soufflés?”, I lament.
“We’re constantly living unanchored in time; the past and the future are creations of the brain.” – David Eagleman
Mindfulness has rapidly become a global phenomenon. Research suggests that it can improve focus and self-control, reduce stress, make you happier, boost your learning ability and make you less irritable. A recent meta-analysis of 209 studies concluded that mindfulness-based interventions for depression and anxiety showed “large and clinically significant effects.” What is this thing that we call mindfulness and is it the panacea that it’s currently reported to be?
Mindfulness is an orientation to life that we practise through meditation. It’s defined as the moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness of thoughts, feelings and the surrounding environment which are best cultivated through the practice of meditation. The goals of mindfulness meditation are to increase awareness of mental processes and attentive listening skills, improve the ability to recognise bias and judgements and to thereby act with principles and compassion. If this sounds complicated, it should be reassuring to know that even spending your meditation time being distracted still counts. The goal is not to stop thoughts, but to observe them. That’s where the non-judgemental part comes in.