2020 Top Doctor: John Kresl, M.D.

Editorial StaffMarch 19, 2020
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Radiation Oncology

Med School/Year Graduated: Northwest University, 1993

Years in Practice: 23

What inspired you to pursue radiation oncology as a specialty?

Several lucky sequences of events, including my earliest undergraduate research activities synthesizing new chemotherapy agents, which introduced me to oncology, and bartending at a supper club where I met the chairman of a premier radiation oncology department. After he gave me a tour of his department, and I saw the linear accelerator equipment and lasers [which deliver the radiation], I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It was like Star Trek and Star Wars all rolled into one!

In layman’s terms, what is stereotactic radiosurgery? How did you come to specialize in it?

Radiosurgery is a form of bloodless surgery using radiation – that is, the ablation [and] removal of precisely selected areas of tissue or organs using ionizing radiation. Despite its name, radiosurgery is a treatment, not a surgical procedure. Incisions are not made on your body. Once I decided to become a radiation oncologist, radiosurgery was most attractive.

You did some training in Norway. What was it like experiencing a health care environment in another country?

My training and teaching in Oslo at the Radium Hospital was unique due to its sharp contrast to the U.S. health care system. At that time, in the Norwegian health care system, most cancer patients in the country that needed radiation therapy came to Oslo for treatment. While the technical radiation oncology level of care was similar to the U.S., the patient care capacity was lagging, which led to wait lists and delays in treatment, which I was not used to.

Name the best depiction of your field in TV or film that you’ve ever seen.

The movie Elysium [2013] with Matt Damon, where they lay a young girl with terminal cancer on a medical treatment table, and an advanced futuristic treatment device images, targets and kills every cancer cell with an energy beam, curing the girl – a lot like CyberKnife radiosurgery.

What do you do for fun after a long week of tumor-zapping?

My No. 1 hobby for spare time has been my three children and cheering at their competitive activities. One is a master’s level chess player, and two have or are playing college and professional basketball. After that, I’m an unabashed oenophile and foodie as a long-standing member of the Phoenix chapter of the International Wine & Food Society.

What are you watching on Netflix these days?

The series Lucifer – I enjoy its dry, fast repartee humor between the characters.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

I’d be a businessman and real estate developer of hospitals and cancer centers to bring the state-of-the-art radiosurgery to as many communities as possible.