Dr Colin Knight has had an impressive medical career that has spanned over the past quarter of a decade. Today we interview him on advice to anyone looking to get into the medical field.
When did you realize you wanted to be a doctor?
In the summer after my sophomore year of college, I landed an internship to work in a lab at the National Cancer Institute. Although it was interesting research and I enjoyed the people I worked with. As the summer wore on though, I came to a realization. I decided I wanted to make a more direct impact on people’s lives than I thought I could as a scientist. It was then that I decided to pursue a career in medicine where I would be able to impact peoples lives daily.
Have you found the medical world has changed since you started practicing? If so, how?
Medicine has changed quite a bit since I started practicing.
The first change I can think of, is that while I was a surgical trainee, work hours became restricted. Following the aftermath of the death of Libby Zion, first New York, then then entire country restricted the number of hours a week medical trainees were allowed to work. So as an intern (before the restrictions), I took call every other night making my work day 36 hours and my time off 12 hours which works out to roughly 120 hours a week. After the restrictions went into play, we were limited to
80 hours a week and required to take a day off a week as well. These restrictions have tighter somewhat over the past few years.
Another change I can think of is the inclusion of technology of all sorts into medicine. As an intern, I spent an amazing amount of time trying to track down film-based X-rays of my patients. Now all of them images go online and are essentially accessible from anywhere there is internet access. Medical records are electronic now. As a resident, I did pioneering research on using surgical robots for pediatric applications. Robots in the OR is commonplace now.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I majored in an intense science major in college. That’s actually not required for medical school admission. I would advise a young person who is sure of going into medicine to consider doing nonscience major as an undergraduate while fulfilling the medical school entrance requirements.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into your field?
Besides the advice I would give my younger self, I would encourage anyone interested in medicine to find a way to get hands on exposure. Whether volunteering in a hospital, shadowing a doctor, finding a summer job in a clinic, or becoming an EMT and running in an ambulance, it’s important to see what real-life medical care is like. It’s not like on TV. This sort of exploration is a great way to find a mentor as well.
Since you know medicine, how do you figure out which doctors to see?
Like any field, there are people who perform better than others. Here’s what one of my mentors once told me: if you find yourself in need of a doctor, call the nearest teaching hospital and ask to speak to the chief resident. The chief resident is a trainee who is almost done with training. Ask the chief resident who the best doctor is for your condition. The chief resident will have worked closely with many of the doctors at the hospital and will know who is best in each area of expertise. The chief resident will not have a motive to direct you elsewhere.