Random Sample

Member since: 1986

What she does: Knight studies how to help cancer patients make better decisions about their treatment options. She is the acting director of an interdisciplinary program to improve care for veterans with complex, comorbid conditions at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Knight spent the early part of her career working as a psychologist in health settings before deciding she could make a bigger impact as a researcher. In 1999, she received a career development award from the VA and retrained as a researcher. She now devotes 100 percent of her time to health services research.

A passion for health psychology: Since earning her doctorate in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University in 1985, Knight has spent her career in medical centers — an interest she attributes to her parents' illnesses. Her mother had multiple sclerosis, and both parents had cancer; they died soon after Knight finished her dissertation.

Focused on decision-making: Cancer patients are often confronted with multiple treatment options, Knight explains, and it's not always clear which one best fits their needs. Her aim is to build measures of patient goals and values that can help patients make those difficult decisions. One such instrument is the Values Insight and Balance Evaluation scales (VIBEs). "It's not intended to give the patient a treatment choice," Knight explains. "Basically, it helps facilitate a discussion about the choice." A prostate cancer patient with a nonaggressive tumor might let concerns about being there to take care of his family steer him toward unnecessarily aggressive treatment, for example — a finding that would prompt an explanation by an oncologist or urologist about the risks that such treatment can pose.

A wistful motorcyclist: Knight used to be an avid long-distance motorcyclist. "I've taken some wonderful trips on my motorcycle," she says, recalling long journeys through the Rocky Mountains and cross-country to the East Coast. Although she still owns her 1986 BMW, she doesn't take it out anymore, feeling that she doesn't ride often enough to be safe.

These days, Knight and her husband — a one-time motorcycle safety instructor and now a VA psychologist himself — are more interested in their pets than their motorcycles. The couple has three rescued greyhounds and two cats. "You can't take a greyhound with you on a motorcycle," Knight laughs. "And three won't fit in a sidecar!"

—R.A. Clay

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