A tribute to our founder, Professor Donald Singer

Our founder, the late Professor Donald Singer, was the initiator and driving force behind both World Healthy Life Week and the Art for the Heart awards programme.

Donald died suddenly on 11th June of this year.

This came as a complete shock to everyone who knew him.

A shock clearly for his family, friends and professional colleagues.

But a big shock too for anyone involved with the Cardiovascular Research Trust, the charity that Donald had personally founded so many years ago.

Since his death I and my fellow trustees have been determined to maintain the trust in Donald’s memory.

A recent BMJ obituary for Donald described him as “an organiser, an enthusiast and an initiator who got things done”.

We saw all aspects of this description in the trust where he:

  • Had the foresight, energy and drive to establish the Trust in the first place and then go on to use the Trust to:
    • Foster cardiovascular research
    • Develop educational programmes for young people
    • Launch a series of regular webinars featuring the very latest developments in Cardiovascular matters,
      AND – I am completely unclear as to where he got the time for this but also
    • To publish a number of books

Donald was the complete polymath and his interests extended way beyond the confines of his medical profession.

He fully embraced the arts and although not a poet himself is credited with launching the international Hippocrates prize for poetry in medicine with his friend Professor Michael Hulse.

The Prize went on to win the 2011 Times Higher Education award for excellence and innovation in the arts.

But Donald was also – amongst other interests:

  • Linguistically literate – able to converse in three languages in addition to English.  I believe he started a clinical presentation in Japan on one occasion with a very acceptable introduction in Japanese.
  • IT literate – he was seemingly able to resolve most computer problems that regular beset us nowadays.
  • Photography literate – producing some excellent pictures over many years.
  • British birds literate – in his later years where his knowledge quickly surpassed my own despite being the offspring of a professional naturalist.
  • Musically literate – he learned the violin with his son via the Suzuki method and went on to play violin in several local musical groups.

Donald could also be charmingly eccentric. I know this from the very close friendship between our two families over nearly forty years. A friendship that continues through Donald’s widow, Fiona and her children, Emma, Ramsay and Eleanor.

I frequently saw this charming eccentricity when my conversations with Donald suddenly seemed to lurch from one topic to another, completely unrelated one without any warning.

Donald was also renowned amongst family and friends for driving his car all the way from London to Kefalonia one year simply to have a car with air-conditioning after discovering all the local car hire companies had none available.  The outward journey, featuring a drive along the whole length of Italy was something of a family trial I understand but the return via boat through Venice was a joy.

Donald’s passing has left a huge hole in all of our lives but we believe that World Healthy Life Week and the Art for the Heart awards will prove to be a fitting tribute to his memory.

John Jackson

Interim Chair of the Cardiovascular Research Trust

October 2022

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