Michael Folkert, M.D., Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He specializes in brachytherapy.

Dr. Folkert earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in nuclear engineering at MIT, all the while thinking he would probably work in a nuclear power plant or in the nuclear waste disposal industry. It wasn’t until he was working on his Ph.D. that he was introduced to medical physics, a branch of general physics that specializes in applying radiation to the treatment of cancer.

“As part of my doctorate research, I worked in an accelerator laboratory building devices capable of delivering single protons to the nuclei of individual cells, where their biological impact could be observed and measured,” Dr. Folkert says. “After that, I worked in the medical physics department at the Massachusetts General Hospital and began collaborating with the radiation oncologists on intraoperative cases. I decided I liked what the doctors were doing and went back to school to get my medical degree.”

Dr. Folkert earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and went on to complete a radiation oncology residency at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, with an emphasis on brachytherapy.

“I enjoy combining what I know about physics with treating cancer,” says Dr. Folkert. “Brachytherapy, in particular, has entered a new era in which we are able to definitively treat cancers that were extremely difficult to treat in the past.”

In 2019, Dr. Folkert was named a Texas Monthly Super Doctor Rising Star.

Personal Note

Dr. Folkert enjoys wood- and metalworking, visiting museums, and reading science fiction in his free time.

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Meet Dr. Folkert

Radiation Oncologist and Brachytherapy Specialist

Michael Folkert, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on treating many different cancer sites with brachytherapy (pronounced “bray-key-therapy”), a type of radiation treatment that uses applicators to place a radioactive source directly within or next to a tumor.

"We can hope to curatively treat even patients with locally advanced cancers requiring extensive surgery."

It’s a very specialized approach with which Dr. Folkert has significant experience, first as a nuclear engineer and medical physicist working on brachytherapy delivery, and later as a physician treating patients, developing new devices, and conducting clinical trials to study brachytherapy’s effectiveness.

Now an assistant professor with UT Southwestern’s Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Folkert is helping to build the department’s intraoperative radiation therapy program, in which surgical patients can have their tumor beds treated directly with brachytherapy applicators in the operating room before their surgical wounds are closed. Dr. Folkert also brings to the practice his experience in the intraocular treatment of melanoma.

UT Southwestern has committed the resources to construct a shielded, full-function operating room where intraoperative brachytherapy and other complex brachytherapy procedures can be delivered safely. Very few facilities can provide this service, which is generally available at only the largest academic cancer centers in the U.S. 

“It requires careful multidisciplinary coordination between the surgical, radiation oncology, and medical physics services – something at which UT Southwestern excels,” Dr. Folkert says.

The benefits to patients make brachytherapy worth the investment.

“With brachytherapy, we can completely circumvent the need to go through healthy tissue to reach the target,” Dr. Folkert says. “With this technique we can hope to curatively treat even patients with locally advanced cancers requiring extensive surgery, and patients who have had their disease return after prior external beam radiation therapy.”

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Education & Training
  • Chief Resident - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2013-2014), Radiation Oncology
  • Clinical Research Fellowship - Cornell/Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Clinical Research
  • Residency - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (2010-2013), Radiation Oncology
  • Internship - Mount Auburn Hospital (2009-2010), Internal Medicine
  • Medical School - Harvard Medical School (2005-2009)
  • Graduate School - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997-2005), Nuclear Engineering/radiological Sciences
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) (2005)
  • Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) (2010)
  • American Brachytherapy Society (ABS) (2011)
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) (2012)
  • Connective Tissue Oncology Society (CTOS) (2014)
  • American Radium Society (2016)
Honors & Awards
  • Texas Monthly Super Doctor Rising Star 2019
  • MIT Karl Taylor Compton Prize 2005
  • New York Roentgen Society “Best of ASTRO 2011” Award, CNS 2011
  • “Best of ASTRO” Presentation Recognition 2013
  • ASCO Pain and Symptom Management (Merit) Award 2013
  • 2013 ASTRO Resident Clinical /Basic Science Research Award (Physics) 2013
  • 2014 American Brachytherapy Society Resident Travel Grant Award 2014
  • 2016-2017 ARRO Educator of the Year Award 2017
Books & Publications
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy
  • Sarcoma
  • Rectal Cancer
  • Primary and metastatic lesions of the spine
  • Oligometastatic disease
  • Ocular tumors
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy
  • Interventions for Toxicity Reduction
  • Image-guided and navigational interventional technology
  • Image analysis and outcomes modeling
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Charged-particle therapy
  • Brachytherapy

Clinical Focus

  • Gastrointestinal Cancers
  • Radiation Therapy for Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Colorectal Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Esophageal Cancer
  • Gallbladder/Bile Duct (Cholangiocarcinoma) Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Genitourinary Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Liver Cancer
  • Ophthalmic Oncology
  • Radiation Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer
  • Peritoneal Cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Radiation Therapy for Stomach Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Sarcoma

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Q&A by Dr. Folkert

Dr. Folkert discusses his approach to patient care.

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