This interview with Dr. Colin Knight was originally published on IdeaMensch, found here.
The recipient of both the Air Force Achievement Medal and the American Medical Association’s Physician Recognition Award, Dr. Colin Knight holds a unique and unparalleled perspective on health in both emergency and non-urgent settings. Currently working as a Pediatric Surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida, with an academic appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, Dr. Knight is both dedicated to pediatric care and highly qualified to teach the necessary skills to others.
He began his higher education at Yale University, earning his BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, graduating in 1991. He continued without pause, heading south to the University of Virginia to obtain his MD, graduating in 1995. After a surgical internship, also at the University of Virginia, Dr. Knight went on active duty in the United States Air Force as a Flight Surgeon in 1996.
When he left active duty in 2000, Dr. Knight continued his training in General Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. While a surgery resident, he devoted a year to ground-breaking research in applications of surgical robots to pediatric surgery. In particular, he investigated using surgical robots for fetal surgery and microsurgery. After finishing his surgical residency, he specialized in Pediatric Surgery, with training at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. He earned his initial board certifications in surgery in 2006 and in pediatric surgery in 2008.
In 2007, he began work as a Pediatric Surgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Miami, Florida, where he is a busy clinician. He is a founding clinical faculty member at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, also in Miami, and actively trains medical students, residents, and fellows as well as engaging in Continuing Medical Education as a Grand Rounds Speaker, Advanced Trauma Life Support trainer, and speaker at conferences.
A published author with over thirty credits in notable journals such as the Journal of Pediatric Surgery and Pediatric Endosurgery and Innovative Techniques, and with significant speaking experience, Dr. Knight is qualified not only to perform complex and high-risk surgery, lead a community organization tackling systemic crises, but he is also experienced enough to research, lecture on his findings, and teach students the critical skills necessary for medical work.
Dr. Knight is an unparalleled expert in his field, and his devotion to understanding the intricacies of our bodies’ connection to health allows him to accurately comment on and hypothesize in specialized areas. He is a routine presenter for the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital’s General Pediatric Review and Self-Assessment and a trainer for Advanced Trauma Life Support courses in South Florida. With a history of dedication to children’s health and community-based change, Dr. Knight’s accomplishments are sure to impress in the future.
In addition to his busy professional life, Dr. Knight is a passionate traveler and cook and an award-winning photographer and home brewer. While spending a year in the lab as a surgery resident, Dr. Knight also studied photography. His work has been exhibited and has won awards. He continues to explore photography and has enjoyed the transition from film to digital.
Dr. Knight was first introduced to home-brewing in 2000 by a fellow airman while he was serving on active duty. He found it a relaxing hobby as a surgery resident and continues to brew to this day. With almost 2 decades of experience in the field, he has entered, and won, homebrewing competitions.
Where did the idea for becoming a surgeon come from?
When I was in medical school, I had no particular interest in pediatrics. During my internship, I spent a month on the pediatric surgery service and didn’t particularly enjoy it. But that was towards the end of an intense year where I was taking call every other night (that is working 36 hours on and 12 hours off) for most of the year. After the internship, I went on active duty with the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon. In that role, I served as the primary care doctor for fliers and their families. I found that I really enjoyed working with children. Upon returning to surgical training, I spent 2 months working on a busy pediatric surgery service at a children’s hospital with some wonderful mentors — an experience that changed my view of the sub-specialty. A year or two later I chanced upon an advertisement for a research opportunity in applying surgical robotics to pediatric surgery. It turned out the program was run by a surgeon I had worked with in medical school and my internship. I drove out for an interview and was hired into the lab. I changed my career plans and added a research year to my training which led the way into a pediatric surgery fellowship.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different, but they fall into three possible days. The first is a clinic day. That’s a day seeing patients in the office. They could be coming in for a new consultation to see if they need surgery, coming in for a checkup after surgery, or be a chronic patient. The second is a call day. On these days I will round on our patients in the hospital, and remain available for any new consultations from within the hospital or from the emergency room. Finally, are what are probably the most fun. OR days. Days where I perform elective surgeries.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I seek efficiencies in what I do. Whether that be ergonomic improvements in how I physically perform surgeries, or work-flow improvements, or finding variations in the steps of an operation to make it more efficient. I’m now working on quantifying some of these improvements.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m excited to see what the push of AI into medicine will lead to. For example, there is a condition known as Hirschsprung’s Disease where a person is born without the proper nerves in the colon. The lack of these nerves leads to the colon not working and effectively causing a bowel obstruction. The treatment is to remove the colon without nerves and leave colon with nerves. So, in real time, a pathologist has to look at pieces of the bowel under a microscope and confirm that there are no nerves. It is much more difficult to show that something is not present rather than present so making the diagnosis is tedious and time-consuming. Seems like the perfect task for machine learning and AI!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This may seem too simple, but simply making a list every morning of the tasks that need to be done and checking them all off before going to bed at night.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I had known when I started college that I was going to medical school rather than pursuing a PhD, I would have majored in something less intense than molecular biophysics and biochemistry.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t match out of medical school into a surgical residency. I stayed at my medical school for a surgical internship and did really well at it. When a spot opened up in the program, they offered it to me, but my military commitment kept me from accepting the position. It all worked out though because I don’t think a path where I had matched would have led me into pediatric surgery.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
See my answer to number 4. Technology to automatically read pathology slides.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
When I was in medical school, I hosted a pot-luck dinner at my house where a married couple, both doctors, came to speak to a group of medical students. Their advice was to outsource the things you don’t enjoy so you can focus on work and things you do enjoy. I have friends who complain all the time that their homes aren’t clean and they hate cleaning. Perfect place to throw $100 and go do something you enjoy instead.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Cutting for Stone. It’s a great story and gives insight to the passion it takes to get through medical training (29 years for me if you count kindergarten!) and become a doctor.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you’re not tired, you’re not living life right.”