These days you’re just as likely to find Jeffrey Krebs, MD, FACP, in front of a camera as behind a stethoscope. And his patients are as likely to see him in a movie theater as they are by their hospital beds.
That’s because the San Diego hospitalist has a schedule that allows him to build an acting career without giving up the patient care he loves. But don’t expect to see him playing a physician. The youthful-looking 46-year-old doesn’t match Hollywood’s “Marcus Welby, MD” image. He’s usually only considered for resident or intern roles despite almost two decades of experience working in medicine. “I’ve been a physician for more than 17 years, and yet I don’t look like a doctor, casting directors tell me,” he says.
From Dabbling to Passion
Dr. Krebs has been dabbling in acting since he was a resident, but it wasn’t until he became a hospitalist last year that made his acting passion a priority. He first became interested in acting in 1989 while he interned at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Frequent contact with celebrity patients led to the offer of a role as an extra in the movie “Heart Condition,” (1990) a comedy starring Denzel Washington and Bob Hoskins.
“I thought it would be fun,” Dr. Krebs says. “Because they were filming in a restaurant a couple of miles from the hospital, it was convenient.”
The day he spent on the set in his non-speaking role taught him how things are done in Hollywood. Even though his efforts ended up on the cutting-room floor, the experience sparked a passion for acting that has grown stronger every year.
After completing his internal medicine residency in Los Angeles in 1989, Dr. Krebs moved to San Diego to become a primary care physician at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center. He found an acting teacher who held classes in San Diego on Sundays and began developing his craft.
Despite the demands of his work as a busy primary care physician, Dr. Krebs has racked up an impressive list of film and TV credits through the years. He was cast as a softball attendant in the martial arts film “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain,” (1998) the last of the “tween” movie “3 Ninjas” series. He played Agent Hans in “The English Job” (2006), a food critic in “Single White Female 2: The Psycho” (2005), a computer programmer in “Form 3254-A” (2005), and a young doctor in “True Vinyl” (2000), a romantic musical movie.
He has also performed in local theater, appearing in “Intrusion,” “Hypocrisy,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Apres Opera,” and “Ignoto’s Farewell” in San Diego, where he was often recognized by patients and colleagues.
Time for a Change
But the last-minute demands of an actor have conflicted frequently with his responsibilities as a physician. “I would be cast in a film and then not hear from the casting director for months,” Dr. Krebs explains. “Then the travel department could call one day and tell me I had to be on the out-of-town set in three days. There were times when I had to turn down a role because I won’t put my patients’ health on hold to do a film. I began to realize that if I really wanted to make a go of my acting, I needed to make some changes in my life.”
An opportunity presented itself last year when Kaiser Permanente in San Diego created two nocturnist positions for hospitalists. When Dr. Krebs heard about the positions, he quickly applied. “I thought that was perfect because all the auditions and filming happen during the day, and I could attend them if I worked at night,” he explains.