Felix Zijlstra studied medicine at the University in Groningen, the Netherlands, and received his training in Cardiology at the Thoraxcenter of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam.

Following a PhD on coronary flow reserve and training in the catheterization laboratory, he moved to the Isala Clinics, Zwolle in 1988.

An early adoption of primary angioplasty in acute myocardial infarction in routine clinical practice resulted in several pivotal publications in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, and paved the way to the gradual but irresistible and eventually widespread implementation of percutaneous coronary intervention in patients presenting with ST- elevation as well as in other acute coronary syndromes.

In 2002 he became full professor of Acute Cardiology at the University Medical Center Groningen and was chair of the Thoraxcenter in Groningen from 2005-2010.

In 2010 he moved back to the Thoraxcenter in Rotterdam and became Head of the Department of Cardiology and Chair of the Thoraxcenter.