Physician spotlight: Dr. Zachary J. Tempel

Dr. Zachary Tempel joined Mayfield Brain & Spine with the reputation of a surgeon who is capable of tackling the most complicated spinal surgeries. He is also known for not pulling any punches with his patients.

If they are facing a challenging surgery for a complex spinal deformity or disc rupture in the thoracic spine, he tells them exactly what they can expect. After a massive two-day surgery for complex deformity, for example, they can expect some type of bump in the road during the following months. After surgery for a chest-level disc herniation, they may feel worse before they feel better.

But patients don't hear these truths alone. Dr. Tempel always wants the patient's spouse or other family member to be there. The man who married his high school sweetheart understands the importance of family.

"Patients are not allowed to consent for this type of surgery without having their support system present in clinic," Dr. Tempel says. "It is important that they all understand the magnitude of the situation."

Dr. Tempel treats the entire spectrum of spinal disorders, from routine to complex. He sees patients who can be treated on an outpatient basis at the Mayfield Spine Surgery Center, and he treats patients whose surgeries will be performed over a two-day period at Good Samaritan Hospital or The Jewish Hospital-Mercy Health.

"I tell someone who is facing surgery for complex spinal deformity, 'You'll be a patient for three months; it will take six months to put the operation in the rearview mirror; and not until one year will you achieve the maximum medical benefit from your surgery.'"

Dr. Tempel and family

Above: Dr. Tempel and Claire with Bo and Sloan.

Finding a career in medicine

Dr. Tempel excelled at science and math as a child. He was one of the kids for whom physics always made sense. At the same time, he was not one to hide away in a computer lab. He enjoyed socializing with friends and was a formidable opponent on the high school debate team.

A career in medicine, he came to realize, would suit him well. "I very much enjoyed interactions with people and thinking critically and solving complex problems," Dr. Tempel says. "I was also inspired by my mother, who has been a nurse practitioner for well other 40 years."

His decision to focus on neurosurgery was triggered while he was still in high school. "My dad had vertebral artery dissection and medullary stroke, and that was the most difficult moment of my life," Dr. Tempel recalls. "That sparked my interest in the neurosciences. And because I liked working with my hands, everything pointed toward neurosurgery."

Dr. Tempel majored in zoology and French at Miami University while completing the pre-med curriculum.

In 2008 Dr. Tempel married his high school sweetheart, Claire. They had been together since their first date, on Dec. 16, 2000, when they saw the movie Vertical Limit at the Clearwater Theater in Indianapolis. "Then we went to Steak and Shake for dinner," Dr. Tempel adds.

Dr. Tempel and Claire are the busy parents of two small children, Bo and Sloan. They enjoy FC Cincinnati, traveling to beach destinations, exploring new restaurants with friends, and spending time at Kenwood Country Club. They are supporters of the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation and Companions on a Journey Grief Support, a non-profit social service organization.

~ Cindy Starr