In this special Black History Month feature, we are honoring Dr. Millicent Knight, OD, FAAO, FAARM, FNAP as the Diva of the week. Read the feature to learn why Dr. Knight did not let other’s opinion of who or what she should be in life, stand in the way of her pursuing her dreams.
1. Tell us a little bit about you?
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent most of my life in Evanston, Illinois. My husband, who is also from the same town, is a physician, and we have one son who is the love of our lives.
I started my career in Chicago in a hospital based OD/MD practice. As a competent clinician, I requested hospital privileges, and was initially met with resistance and told they did not have hospital rules or privileges for optometrists. I said, then, I’ll write them, so that I can provide the best care for my patients. Because of my persistence, I became the first optometrist at that hospital to get hospital privileges. The guidelines I wrote are still the basis for the privileges afforded the optometrists who are currently on staff.
Although I loved working at the hospital, my goal was always to own a practice. I purchased a practice from a retiring optometrist, who stayed on as my employee. After a few years of rapid growth, I purchased a building to expand the practice and our services. We made advances in our conventional practice with emphasis on medical eye care, and later expanded the scope of care to a separate integrative model of holistic eye health care and nutrition.
The Integrative Eye and Wellness Center was a beautiful spa-like space that supported my philosophy that the OD and Practice of the future should look at the whole body while focusing on the eyes. Now, with two associates, we were able to provide baseline conventional care with complementary holistic treatment options, especially for chronic inflammatory issues. My associates and I sought training to become certified holistic health coaches, and I pursued a fellowship in Anti-Aging Regenerative Medicine to help develop the right blueprint for the practice. The patients loved it!
While in practice, I consulted for a number of companies. I have always believed that doctors should work with industry to help develop the best products, services, and solutions for our patients. So, after many years of clinical care, I changed my focus of patient care to advocating for patient care within industry. My family and I relocated to Jacksonville Florida to work for Johnson & Johnson Vision. Currently, I am in a leadership role with Essilor of America located in Dallas Texas, where I am the voice of the doctor to senior management.
I am still a certified holistic health coach, and maintain my fellowship in anti-aging regenerative health care. I love books, time with family, and being near water. My passion is connecting doctors and industry to improve the quality of care for our patients.
2. What made you decide to become an Optometrist?
When I was 8 years old, I needed vision therapy. My parents used to take me once a week to see the doctor and the therapy lasted 6 months. My father said that one day when he picked me up from therapy; I told him that when I grow up, I am going to be an eye doctor. I wanted to help people the same way that doctors had helped me.
I never deviated from that dream. After college, I applied to the Illinois College of Optometry and was accepted. I was excited about my new journey.
Helping people see clearly is what got me interested in the Optometry profession. However, as I got more involved in wellness, I realized that I loved helping people see even beyond visual acuity. I wanted to help people have a clear vision of their overall health. That is why my tag line at my Wellness Center was…
“The optometrist and practice of the future looks at the whole body while focusing on the eyes.”
After practicing for many years, I became passionate about helping companies that were providing eye care products and solutions deliver the best quality products to our patients.
With so much disruption in our industry, my desire is to help our profession, and to be a bridge to a stronger working relationship between practitioners and industry. I believe that is the best avenue to ensure that patients receive the quality care and services they seek. That is why I love what I do every day!
3. What Optometry school did you go to?
The Illinois College of Optometry (ICO)
4. Where do you currently practice?
5. Do you have any particular area of focus?
Myopia Management and Integrative Medical Eye Care.
6. Name 1 to 3 hurdles you personally faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
1. Becoming an owner of a practice –
I was able to purchase a small practice, and built it into a larger successful practice, with a minimal down payment, and zero bank debt. How did I do it? Ask me the next time you see me in a meeting… LOL
2. Purchasing a building for the practices –
The bank was not enthusiastic about loaning money to a young single black female doctor, even one who met all of their financial requirements. I was not deterred by these obstacles, and instead negotiated directly with the property owner, and engaged my legal counsel to deal with the bank, and we resolved the issue in short order.
3. Navigating corporate cultures and advancing –
In my practice I was a big fish in a smaller pond, however in the corporate world, I was a smaller fish in a really BIG pond. In my practice, I created the mission and the vision. Larger corporations have varied considerations and compliancy issues, and move with a slower more hierarchical pace. This took some adjustment. But, because I was open to learn, flexible, and a good collaborator, I adapted quickly. Although I no longer see patients on a daily basis, I feel privileged to use my clinical and business management experiences to care for patients on a larger scale.
7. If you could go back to when you were a student, what advice would you give yourself?
Same advice I used then…stay focused! There will be many distractions along the journey, but if you stay focused on the prize, nothing will be able to stop you.
How to Contact Dr. Knight?
To contact Dr. Knight, email her at [email protected] or click on the social media icons below.