Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Juanita Crook


Division of Radiation Oncology



Why did Dr. Crook pursue a career in medicine?

At first she thought she wanted to be an environmental lawyer – she enjoyed biology and wanted to help protect the planet. However, when friends applied for medical school she decided to do the same – a decision she does not regret.

What was it that attracted her to the area of radiation oncology?

She originally trained as a GP and took a one-year position with Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto – one of the largest cancer centres in the world. This sparked her interest in pursuing radiation oncology which also lead her to doing a fellowship in France in brachytherapy – which was not widely practiced in Canada at the time. She really enjoys the technical aspects of the discipline and the challenge drives her.

It has recently been announced that Dr. Crook has been appointed to the role of Chair in Brachytherapy at BC Cancer – Kelowna. What is brachytherapy and how does it help improve patient care?

Radiation is most often delivered externally from a linear accelerator in daily treatments over several days to weeks. This can be a useful and effective treatment. However, through brachytherapy, radiation sources can be implanted internally directly into tumor sites accessible through the skin or mucosal surface. This gives a much higher dose to the tumor without the radiation having to pass through innocent surrounding structures in order to get to where it is needed. This makes treatment more effective while at the same time reducing side effects.

No matter what your profession is or where you live in the world, COVID-19 certainly has people reflecting on so many aspects of life. What has changed for her that will likely continue when we are on the other side of this pandemic?

While she misses the social aspect of in-person international meetings, she feels virtual conferences have many benefits. In addition to the positive environmental impact from the reduction of air travel, there is also an academic benefit of attending more sessions since you can tune into simultaneous or back to back talks in the virtual meeting which is available at your convenience.

She trained in Ontario – what made her come out to BC?

After 10 years in Ottawa, she returned to Toronto where she originally trained to develop a Prostate Brachytherapy program at Princess Margaret Hospital.  As an avid biker and runner, the increasing street congestion and air pollution were impacting her activities, so she decided to move to Kelowna – a city big enough to have an international airport but easy access to nature for her outdoor activities.  

What are some of her other hobbies?

In addition to running (almost every day!) and road biking, she also enjoys hitting the slopes and canoe tripping. Travel is also a passion of hers – particularly exploring the Pyrenees and Alps on her bike.

What is one of Dr. Crook’s greatest fear?

Letting people down and not living up to what she thinks she should be able to do.

Which talent would she most like to have?

She would like to be able to sing.

What advice does she have for others?

Love what you do and if you have an idea – follow it through. You never know where it will take you.