"5 minutes with..." Peter Macfarlane (Electrocardiology)

Published: 21 September 2020

Emeritus Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow Peter Macfarlane tells us about the nature and impact of his work within the Robertson Centre for Biostatistic's Electrocardiology Unit, his lifelong support of Ayr United, and the wise words of a family member taken very much to heart...

Emeritus Professor and Honorary Senior Research Fellow Peter Macfarlane tells us about the nature and impact of his work within the Robertson Centre for Biostatistic's Electrocardiology Unit, his lifelong support of Ayr United, and the wise words of a family member taken very much to heart...

Tell us a bit about what you do in IHW

I have been an Honorary Senior Research Fellow for over 10 years and currently manage a very supportive small team interested in electrocardiology. There are two main strands to our work, with one being related to the continued development of our software for automated electrocardiogram (ECG) analysis and the other related to operating an ECG core lab for the interpretation of ECGs recorded as part of an epidemiological study or clinical trial, e.g. the recent local Covid (CISCO) and national (COVID-HEART) studies. The group is attached to the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics (RCB) but is based in the Royal Infirmary. I am a member of the RCB Management Group and also do a small amount of teaching, but dislike on-line lecturing! I engage in other activities such as recently recording a video podcast for a Mayo Clinic series and will shortly record an on-line lecture in my capacity as Honorary Chair of a large international meeting in China in May.

Photo of Peter Macfarlane tasting tea

What do you enjoy about your role?

I enjoy international collaboration and (until recently!) travel to meetings and conferences. Our ECG software has been commercially developed and it is satisfying to be able to deal with collaborators all over the globe from Basingstoke to Beijing! Some years ago, we estimated that over 20 million ECGs per annum were interpreted worldwide using the "Glasgow program" – yes "program" in relation to computing!! This total may be higher nowadays. Our academic links are with a number of research groups in Europe, Africa, India and Brazil which make use of our software, resulting in various joint publications.

Photo of Peter Macfarlane in a bookshop in Kolkata

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge is maintaining financial support to fund 100% of the cost of running the group! The next biggest challenge is dealing with the ever increasing demands of international standards and regulations.

What is the best thing about working in IHW?

Support from colleagues when needed.

Tell us something we might not know about you, or would surprise us

Only a few people may know that I am daft enough to support Ayr United. I make no secret of the fact that I was asked to leave the stand at Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s ground a few years ago because another spectator objected to the fact that I was supporting Ayr and not the home team. I ultimately complained, using supporting photographic evidence, that there was no signage stating "Home Support Only" at the entrance to the stand and this was accepted by the Club Chairman, who invited me to the Boardroom when next Ayr played Inverness. I have not managed that as yet, and there is now a new Club Chairman!

When or where are you happiest?

I try to be upbeat 24/7 even when Ayr United lose a game – as has frequently happened this season! I run (downhill), struggle (uphill) and jog on the level for 10 miles each Sunday (rain, snow, ice, hail, gales and even shine), and enjoy the varying hilly West Renfrewshire scenery, as well as noting farming (fertiliser!) and golfing (fore!) activities along the way throughout the year. Christmas past was a particularly happy time for me and my wife when our two sons and wives (all Glasgow medical graduates) and five grandchildren (one of whom is now a Glasgow medical student) were all together at our home for the first time in a long time!

Any secret – or not so secret! – ambitions?

No ambitions! I no longer have any realistic hope of playing football for Scotland – I missed my chance while playing for the university quite a few years ago!

Photo of Tobermory

Do you have a favourite quote or saying, or mantra by which you try to live your life?

I like to think the cup is half full rather than half empty e.g. I always hope that Ayr might win their next game! When I was much younger, I was strongly advised by my father, a very senior police officer at the time of his death, not to smoke or drink, particularly because he had to deal with so many drink related crimes and associated family problems throughout his career. I followed this advice and learned to withstand comments worldwide about being a Scot who does not drink!! The benefit is that my wife and I never have to argue about who will drive to a restaurant…! 

If you would like to appear in "Five minutes with...", do please get in touch (jane.goodfellow@glasgow.ac.uk)! We aim to alternate professional services and research/teaching staff profiles, and feature colleagues from across a wide range of roles and grades within our institute. 

First published: 21 September 2020