By Chaunie Brusie

If you ask Mary C. Mahoney, MD, FACR, what her favorite field of medicine is, she has a ready answer, citing radiology as the “most fascinating.” Of course, the Benjamin Felson endowed chair and professor with the department of radiology at the University of Cincinnati and chief of imaging at UC Health, is a bit biased, considering that she lives and breathes radiology. But the dedicated physician tells AXIS Imaging News that she is “truly enjoying her career.”

Mahoney’s extensive and impressive credentials have included serving as the chair of the board of directors for the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA); on the executive committee, Board of Chancellors, for the American College of Radiology (ACR); immediate past member, Board of Governors, American Board of Radiology (ABR); and as a member of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD) and Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM). And if you were paying attention, yes, those are simultaneous leadership positions on all three of the major radiological societies in the United States. As of 2017, Mahoney is the only individual to do so—and it’s a feat she’s understandably proud of.

“I think I have contributed to the specialty of radiology and have focused, in particular, on raising awareness of the need to practice patient-centered care,” she says.

Following in Her Father’s Footsteps

Mahoney first became interested in the medical field when she was still a child, although she initially planned to follow in her father’s footsteps as a surgeon. Once she entered medical school, however, she became fascinated by the imaging field instead.

“I found that the best part of my day was going to the radiology department for x-ray rounds,” she remembers. “It seemed [like] the radiologist always had the answer, and it made an immediate impact on the care of the patient—‘what is the source of the infection?’ ‘Where is the tumor?’ ‘Why is the patient in pain?’ The answer was always on the images.”

For her as a medical student, the answer became images as well—and, after graduation, she completed an internship, followed by a four-year residency in radiology and then a fellowship. From there, her career has advanced at a rapid pace, encompassing everything from being named one of the “Top Doctors in America” three years in a row to completing research on radiomics. Two examples of Mahoney’s current research include textural analysis of breast tumors to evaluate heterogeneity and breast MR spectroscopy, the latter of which uses high-field breast MRI analysis to identify the molecular makeup of tumors and, thereby, establish precise molecular signatures for each breast cancer.

Advancing 3D Mammography

With much of her career comprised of utilizing imaging for the diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of breast cancer, one of Mahoney’s most important research developments to date has been serving as a leader in trials for 3D mammography when researchers first begin studying the new technology.

She explains how her institution worked early on with one of the companies developing 3D mammography, also known as tomosynthesis. After the technology was approved by the FDA in 2011, UC Health began offering it to all their patients onsite and through their mammography van program. “The technology has been a huge benefit to patients,” says Mahoney. “Not only does it improve our ability to detect cancer, but it also decreases the number of false positives.”

A True Leader

Throughout her busy schedule, the mother of four also maintains a sense of humor about her various responsibilities, such as her time serving on the leadership boards for all three major radiological societies in the United States.Others have served on all these boards, but not all at once,” says Mahoney. “I think it means I do not time things well.”

On the contrary, Mahoney clearly does her job well—and she’s working to pass her knowledge onto the next generation, too. “I find my greatest joy in mentoring and promoting the careers of others,” she explains. “I was so fortunate to have great role models, and it is a wonderful thing to be in a position to do the same for others.”

And while her career has offered awards, leadership positions, and accolades, at the end of the day, when Mahoney isn’t working, she finds the most pleasure in the simple things in life, like cooking, baking, reading, and the arts. “My idea of heaven on earth is a good book and a long beach to walk,” she says.

Featured image courtesy of Colleen Kelley/University of Cincinnati.