Irish Innovator in Use of Images to Tailor Surgery


With over five of her immediate family members as medical professionals, medicine wasn’t an unusual career path for Clare Tempany-Afdhal. More unusual was her specialty of radiology.

“At the time you were very much in the basement, in the dark, and no one ever really knew you were there,” says Tempany-Afdhal.

However, during her rotation at what was the then Richmond hospital, she found that she was interested in radiology. It appealed to her as a sort of detective puzzle where she could put together a list of problems in an x-ray and try to find out what was wrong with the patient.

When Tempany-Afdhal graduated from college in 1981, she had just missed the start of the radiology program in Ireland. Rather than wait, she applied to a program in the United States and was accepted at Chicago’s Loyola University.

“For training purposes I thought I want to be in a place where they have got the latest and greatest and state-of-the- art equipment and to be able to learn that,” she says.

MRI scans were a new technology and something she found very exciting. Her original plan was to return to Ireland after training, but “that didn’t pan out” and she has been in the US since.

After finishing her residency in Chicago, she completed a fellowship in Baltimore and went on to work at the John Hopkins University. She then moved to Boston where her now husband, Dr. Nezam Afdhal, is chief of hepatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

She took a job as a diagnostic radiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 1991 and it was there she became interested in image-guided interventions, a way of using a patients’ X-rays and other images to guide their treatment, including surgeries.

Tempany-Afdhal is an innovator in imaging and medical devices and has been instrumental in developing an image-guided therapy program that is helping to use a patient’s X-rays and scans to tailor the surgery to an individual.

“Our insides are all different and it is very important to use our images to treat our diseases,” she says. While many images are taken, it can be difficult to put them into “a framework that a surgeon can use in real time”. “We bring them [the pictures] into the operating room and make the surgeons use them for whatever he or she is doing.” she says. “We think it is our way of personalizing medicine.”

She has been instrumental in the development of the advanced multi-nodal image guided operating room suite at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We use the images to do the operation,” says Tempany-Afdhal.

Thank you for your hard work and innovation, Clare! Read more here.

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