Pioneering vet surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick from Ballyfin made a flying visit to Ireland last Friday November 14, to accept an award from UCD.
The workaholic star of the Channel 4 series The Supervet took a rare night off to collect the Foundation Day Alumni Aaward for his revolutionary work in treating small animals, and he dedicated it to his mother Rita.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to thank her, I am very proud of her. The award should go to her for putting up with me. I was dumb in school, I had to work really hard. I would go in to her at two in the morning and ask her for a big word, and she would get her dictionary and pull out a word, I still have that dictionary,” said Noel, who attended Patrician College Ballyfin before doing a degree in Veterinary Medicine in UCD.
Now with a multi million veterinary facility in Surrey, he is famed for his intricate operations on tiny creatures, shown on the TV show, which attracts 1.7 million viewers an episode.
“The smallest creature I have operated on is a hamster. Whether it is a dog, a cat or a rabbit it is a companion. People in Ireland find it difficult to comprehend, but companions of any kind are really important in urban society. I see my role as looking after that,” he said.
He continually breaks new ground in bionic and neuro-surgical techniques, including stem cell research and reconstructed spinal cords. A new centre may even help cure human cancers.
“We have just started a new multi million cancer research centre. Lots of cancers are the same in animals and people, with 98.5 percent of genes the same. I would hope that as we find solutions it heralds a new era for humans,” he said.
Trips back home are rare.
“I work seven days a week, there is always an emergency. To come today, I had to operate until 4am this morning. I don’t speak to my mum as often as I should, but for me work is my vocation and she understands that. I am like my dad, he was married to the farm,” Noel said.
Laois was well represented on the night as Clonaslee native Evelyn Cusack, Met Eireann’s Deputy head of forecasting, was also honoured. Twelve graduates received awards, including rugby star Johnny Sexton, presented by Newstalk’s Pat Kenny.