Radiology mourns Dr. Helen Carty, 1944-2017

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Tributes are being paid to Dr. Helen Carty, the leading pediatric radiologist from Liverpool, U.K., who died peacefully at home on 23 April at the age of 72. She was a world expert in imaging of child abuse, the president of ECR 2004, and a gold medalist at ECR 2009.

"The ESR (European Society of Radiology) Board of Directors and the entire ESR staff are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved colleague and friend Prof. Helen Carty passed away," noted a statement on the ESR website. "Prof. Carty was a tremendously popular figure throughout the radiological community and a great inspiration to many. She was a hugely admired pediatric radiologist."

Similar sentiments came from Dr. David Horton, honorary secretary of the British Society of Pediatric Radiology.

Dr. Helen Carty and her husband Austin brought great personal warmth to ECR 2004, of which she was president. Image courtesy of Dr. Lorentz Jäntschi.Dr. Helen Carty and her husband Austin brought great personal warmth to ECR 2004, of which she was president. Image courtesy of Dr. Lorentz Jäntschi.

"I am sure members will join me in expressing our condolences to her family, friends, and her former colleagues (of which I was one), and our appreciation for the inestimable contribution she made to our speciality, and the care of children," Horton said.

Carty spent most of her career in the U.K., but her heart always remained in the Republic of Ireland. Born in 1944 in Dungarvan in County Waterford, Carty obtained a bachelor's degree in medicine and surgery obstetrics from University College Dublin in 1967, according to her biography on the ESR website. Her clinical studies were in the Mater Hospital, where she became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and was subsequently elected a fellow. Then she completed her residency in radiology at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

In 1974, Carty obtained fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR), after which she became a consultant radiologist at the Royal Liverpool Children's National Health Service Trust, Alder Hey. She was appointed director of radiological services there in 1977, a post she held for 27 years. In 1996, she became professor of pediatric radiology at Liverpool University and Alder Hey, a position she held until her retirement in 2004.

Pioneer in intervention

Carty was a professor of pediatric radiology.Carty was a professor of pediatric radiology.

Carty introduced interventional procedures at Alder Hey, the ESR biography continued. She helped to pioneer a radiological alternative to open surgery for children suffering from aneurysmal bone cysts, a rare but painful condition resulting in localized swelling. The technique used a sclerosing injection, which was effective and led to shorter hospital stays.

She was adviser in radiology to the U.K. chief medical officer of health between 1995 and 1998, deputy chairman of the Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee (ARSAC), and president of the Liverpool Medical Institution in 1993-94. She served a four-year term as warden of the RCR, and also was an external examiner and supervisor of MD and PhD theses in Dublin, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Singapore. She was a visiting professor or lecturer on many occasions in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, South Africa, and the U.S., having a special interest in nonaccidental injuries.

"Fully committed to sharing her knowledge with her peers, Prof. Carty has also greatly contributed to the development of European radiology," the ESR stated. "She spoke at every conference since ECR changed its format in 1991, until her retirement."

She published 155 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 12 invited articles, and 16 book chapters. She was editor in chief and author of chapters in six books, including Imaging Children, a two-volume textbook on pediatric imaging. She regularly reviewed for medical journals, including European Radiology, the British Journal of Radiology, Pediatric Radiology, Skeletal Radiology, Clinical Radiology, and Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

Civic pride and joy: Carty was deputy lieutenant of Merseyside, U.K. Image courtesy of the ESR.Civic pride and joy: Carty was deputy lieutenant of Merseyside, U.K. Image courtesy of the ESR.

Carty obtained honorary membership of the European Society of Paediatric Radiology, the Radiological Society of Hungary, the Polish Radiological Society, and the RSNA. She received the president's award from the Association of American Women Radiologists in 2004, and was elected honorary member of the Council of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She was awarded honorary fellowships of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health and the Faculty of Radiologists of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London. She was made a deputy lieutenant of Merseyside in 2005, a civic honor.

She married Austin Carty, also a doctor, in 1967, and they had three children and six grandchildren. During her retirement, she remained extremely active, spending time with her family and enjoying many hobbies.

“Austin and I both retired on the same day to have time to spend with each other and our children,” she told the Merseyside Lieutenancy website. “We indulge our hobbies. Some are joint -- music, opera, fishing, reading, art, and above all being with friends and our children. My personal hobbies are bird watching, photography, nature in all its aspects, the Burren (a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland), and woodcarving.”

Carty also served as high sheriff of Merseyside in 2011-2012.

The first CT scanner in Alder Hey was purchased through a public appeal that raised 1.25 million pounds (1.48 million euros). She was the medical lead for the appeal that raised the money between 1984 and 1987.

Thanksgiving service

Carty was the loving mother of Tim, Jenny, and Sarah, and devoted granny to Robyn, Sebastian, Barney, Lauren, Tom, and Charlie, according to a short obituary posted on Wednesday in the Times newspaper. A private cremation is due to take place next week for family only, followed by a service of thanksgiving on Tuesday 30 May at 11 a.m. at Liverpool Cathedral, St. James Mount in Liverpool. Carty requested no flowers, but any donations should be made to Liverpool Cathedral Foundation (charity number 1094876 for the 2024 appeal).

Alongside its announcement, the ESR has posted the following poem, "The Cloths of Heaven," by William Butler Yeats:

Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

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