Every year, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal recognizes 40 young leaders who have already accomplished much in their professional lives while also giving back to the community. One of this year’s 40 Under 40 honorees is Gustavus alumnus, Dr. Nathan Kreykes ’96.
Kreykes is a pediatric surgeon and Trauma Medical Director at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. He practices the full spectrum of pediatric surgery, including caring for newborns with congenital anomalies as well as providing care for children with cancer. He currently specializes in minimally invasive surgery and is among an elite group of surgeons who use laparoscopic techniques on infants.
“Having three kids of my own, I understand how stressful and life-disrupting illness can be on a family. I go to work each day to help families get through the stress of surgery as quickly and safely as possible,” Kreykes said. “So many wonderful things happen at Children’s every day. The physicians and people who work there are truly remarkable.”
Growing up in St. Peter, Kreykes had no intentions of attending Gustavus, but instead was set on getting out of the Midwest. He applied to several east and west coast colleges, but ultimately had a change of heart.
“I didn’t really learn how special Gustavus was until I took a few post-secondary option courses there my junior and senior years in high school,” Kreykes said. “I made some friends, got to know some of the professors, learned my way around campus, and ultimately decided that Gustavus was where I wanted to be.”
Kreykes says he always had an interest in health care and was pre-med from day one at Gustavus. In high school, he had the opportunity to shadow a local physical therapy group, which exposed him to patients recovering from orthopedic surgery and allowed him to meet several surgeons. With initial intentions of becoming an orthopedic surgeon, Kreykes settled on a double major in biochemistry and chemistry. He says he had many mentors during his four years at Gustavus, but that two professors really stand out as being influential.
“Dr. William Heidcamp was my pre-med advisor and truly guided me toward medical school. He was always available to provide advice on courses, medical school applications and willing to calm the nerves of all of the pre-med students wondering if they would get in to medical school,” Kreykes said. “My chemistry advisor was Dr. Larry Potts and like all of the professors at Gustavus, Dr. Potts was always approachable. He was a stickler for precision, thoroughness, and neatness. I distinctly remember him telling me I would need these skills as a physician. He was absolutely right. I use these skills every day in the operating room.”
After graduating magna cum laude from Gustavus, Kreykes attended medical school at the University of Minnesota. He completed his general surgery residency at the U of M and then received specialized training in pediatric surgery at the University of Oklahoma.
Now, a typical week for Kreykes includes between two and seven surgeries a day, seeing patients who might need surgery or who have had a recent surgery, and administrative meetings. He also serves as the medical school surgery clerkship director where he helps teach medical students who are completing their surgery rotation at Children’s. As Trauma Medical Director, Kreykes has also been heavily involved in developing the level one trauma system at Children’s.
Kreykes’ many accomplishments are not a surprise to Potts, who recognized early on during Kreykes’ undergraduate years that he had the potential to become a successful doctor someday.
“Nathan showed a love for science very early on. He was a strong student who enjoyed challenges,” Potts said. “I was delighted when Nathan elected to take advanced chemistry courses with me. He certainly didn’t have to do that for medical school preparation, but rather he just seemed to enjoy the material and competing with his classmates and friends. I also had the pleasure of sharing a music stand with Nathan for four years in the Gustavus Brass Choir trumpet section. He was and is a fine example of the best in Gustavus liberal arts and sciences graduates.”
The number of students interested in pre-med programs at Gustavus has risen over the past decade and the College has responded by developing strong partnerships with several health care facilities in southern Minnesota. Kreykes has some advice for those Gustavus students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
“I would start by telling them that I love my job! I honestly can’t think of a more rewarding, intellectually challenging, and emotionally satisfying profession,” he said. “The health care delivery system is changing and you will occasionally find dissatisfied physicians, but medical school will always provide opportunities. There are a lot of career options including health care administration, research, consulting, and of course multiple care specialties to choose from.”