Some children know exactly who they are going to be from a young age. Millicent Knight, OD ’87, was one of those kids. When she was eight years old, her teacher thought she might need an eye exam. Months later, on the way home from a vision therapy session at the Illinois Eye Institute, Millie declared to her father, “I’m going to be an eye doctor.”
Dr. Knight looks back on that memory with fondness. “Here was a team of people really committed to trying to help me.” Years later, a student personally walked Dr. Knight from her eye exam in the IEI to ICO’s Admissions department. She applied, and never looked back.
“My primary goal was to get a really good clinical education,” Dr. Knight explains. “ICO has one of the best clinical programs in the country. We really have fantastic professors and a great patient base… Unfortunately, there are a lot of challenges with health care in that community. That presented a great opportunity to learn firsthand how to manage these patients, and just how to be prepared for whatever might walk through your door.”
Dr. Knight leveraged her ICO education into business prowess. She opened multiple practices, guiding major corporate sales and mergers along the way. Her consulting corporation, Knight Vision, coaches and cultivates growing practices. She is an advocate for underrepresented populations within optometry, based on needs she saw in the profession while at ICO.
Today, Dr. Knight is Vice President of Professional Affairs, North America, at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care. It is a high-impact role creating innovative products for optometrists. The responsibilities are diverse. On any one day, Dr. Knight may collaborate with multiple teams teams- leadership, marketing, research, development, even doctors and teachers. She feels she is in “a position to help facilitate a fantastic conversation between the profession and the industry.”
It’s very common to run into individuals who graduated from ICO… to just hear their experiences and some of the challenges they’ve had, and how they’ve parleyed those into great opportunities. They really give me encouragement and courage.
Some of Dr. Knight’s favorite conversations happen with ICO alumni. “It’s very common to run into individuals who graduated from ICO… to just hear their experiences and some of the challenges they’ve had, and how they’ve parleyed those into great opportunities. They really give me encouragement and courage.”
Another source of motivation for Dr. Knight is her family. “My mother, in particular, has always been a strong mentor for me. She retired as CEO of a mental health agency at 75.” Business sense is apparently in Dr. Knight’s genes, but her support network is wide. “My husband is a physician,” she explains. “In this profession, you need a partner. He understands private practice, commitment to patients… and he’s a great father.” Their son, a “natural athlete,” is the center of their lives. “I can’t wait to see just what he decides to do.”
Dr. Knight has given back to optometry in many ways. “I really see myself as just someone who is contributing to something that has given a lot to me,” she says. Most recently, Dr. Knight contributed once again by giving ICO’s Commencement Address. She delivered a message of advocacy, gratitude, and open-mindedness to the Class of 2016.
Dr. Knight offers this advice to prospective ICO students. “You need to know yourself and to think about what makes you happy.” She highly recommends shadowing a practicing optometrist. “Most optometrists love what they do, and so they’re happy to show you around.” In her own life, Dr. Knight has found mentors “in all kinds of shapes and colors and genders.” She encourages aspiring ODs to stay open, as you never know where help might come from.