We all have the ability to help the people around us: family members, friends, even strangers. But first we have to find our calling, and the way that we can help others the most. And once we have found it, we have to find the courage to follow that calling, even if it is in a completely new direction. Yakima based Nurse Practitioner Karalee Knight took such a leap, and not only did she find her passion — she also found out how she could use her skills to make the most positive impact on the lives of others in our community.
Karalee grew up in Yakima in a family that has been in the Valley for over 40 years. After graduating from Naches High School, she attended Walla Walla University where she received her undergraduate degree. Shortly thereafter, she headed to Loma Linda University School of Nursing in Southern California where she would meet her future husband, Derek Knight. Her next goal, a master’s degree from Gonzaga University, brought her back to Eastern Washington. It also gave her a taste of dermatology during her clinical rotations. Upon completing her master’s degree, Karalee began working as a nurse practitioner in the emergency department at Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital. During her time there, she found that the moments she felt most helpful were while taking care of patients who came in with wounds that needed to be sutured. Her goal was simple: Get the wound closed cleanly and efficiently, but also do so in a manner that would result in the best aesthetic outcome possible. “I spent several years in the emergency department at Memorial and really enjoyed my time there. I loved the work, and the excitement of taking on whatever walked through the door. I loved the people I worked with, learned from, and helped teach. The emergency department really has such a fabulous team and it was an honor to be a part of it.”
Although she loved her work at Memorial Hospital, she still didn’t feel like she had found her true career path, one that would not only allow her to help people, but one that she was also passionate about. When her daughter, Avalene, was born, her work schedule in the emergency department became difficult and she decided to try a new path; working at Jason Berreman’s dermatology practice here in the Yakima Valley. “I have always been drawn to the procedural part of medicine. That was my favorite part of working in the emergency department, and is my favorite part of working in dermatology. When my husband and I started a family and I was seeking more stable hours, Jason’s clinic was simultaneously bursting at the seams. I started a kind of residency in dermatology and for several months spent all of my time at work following and learning from Jason. Since I have started working in dermatology it has been so wonderful having someone who has spent almost 15 years in the field available to answer questions and help me continue to learn and grow in my practice.”
As an independent contractor, Karalee works with patients with a variety of skin conditions ranging from cancer to acne, as well as on the cosmetic side of skin care. “The majority of our patients come in with concerns about atypical moles or suspicious skin lesions. We also manage chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and rosacea. One of my favorite medical conditions is acne, in part because I struggled with mild acne in high school and stumbled my way through drug stores trying product after product, none of which helped much. I love having a huge variety of great options to treat a condition that often extends to (or even begins) in adulthood. I also really enjoy the procedural aspect of dermatology. I find the biopsies and surgical excisions of malignant lesions very rewarding. I take pride in helping patients feel comfortable and have as little discomfort as possible,” she says.
“I also have a special place in my heart and a passion for cosmetic dermatology. That passion has definitely been the greatest surprise to me in this field. Sometimes a man or woman looks in the mirror, or looks at a picture of him or herself and can only see this one feature that they perceive to be a flaw. Helping a person to feel as good as they look is so rewarding. Sometimes it’s relaxing a deep wrinkle between the eyebrows, other times it’s adding some volume to their lips or definition to the cheekbones. Sometimes a person just wants a brighter, smoother, more even complexion and I perform laser treatment or chemical peels or can recommend a quality skin care regimen to help address their concerns.”
Looking to the future, Karalee wants to be able to help those in need who don’t have the funds to come in to see her at the clinic. “I spent some time volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission, and when family life slows down a little I would love to have a “dermatology day” there. I saw so many patients in the emergency department at Virginia Mason Memorial with skin concerns who are turned away from every clinic and have no place to go. I would love to be able to provide a venue to address their needs.” When she was an RN, Karalee went on a medical mission to Grenada with her two brothers, Yakima dentists Mike and Dave Clark. She assisted with dental patients by taking vitals, addressing medical concerns and teaching locals about preventative care education. “While I was in Grenada, I’ll never forget a young girl that I met that was scared she was pregnant. She didn’t know how to find out for sure if she was, let alone prepare for a baby. Over the course of several days we talked frequently at the clinic and I talked her through the basics of pre-natal care and preparations with a crash course of breastfeeding and newborn care.” Working with these people made a huge impact on her life, an impact that has made her the person she is today — at work and at home. “It’s hard to articulate how medical missions and world travel change you. I think Mark Twain says it well: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’”
Karalee also wants to play a role in spreading more awareness in our community about the negative effects of sun on our skin. “I spoke at Relay for Life about sun protection and about recognizing skin cancer. The Pacific Northwest has some of the highest incidences of skin cancer, including melanoma, in the nation. I would love to spread more awareness to our community about how to recognize and prevent skin cancer.”
Working in the dermatology field, Karalee’s passion for helping people truly comes to life. She not only helps people heal and cope with their medical issues, she helps patients build self-esteem, and sometimes gain a new outlook on life. When her patients look in the mirror after a treatment and start to cry because of how happy they are, those are the moments that Karalee lives for. She has found her calling. And now that she has tools to help those in need, she’s determined to improve as many people’s lives in our community as she can — one skin concern at a time. “I find so much joy in helping an individual more accurately exude their joyful spirit or feel less self-conscious. I love helping people feel more comfortable in their own skin. That is why I love this business, and love this practice.”