Retired surgery professor James Knol, M.D., receives Distinguished Alumni Service Award

April 19, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Accolades and Milestones

The Michigan Medicine Alumni Society has honored associate professor emeritus James A. Knol, M.D., with the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Service Award. The award recognizes former medical and doctoral students, as well as residents, fellows and faculty members who exemplify the Michigan tradition of excellence and have brought credit to the university and their profession through their outstanding service to medicine, patient care, MMAS or the health sciences.

Knol certainly fits that bill. Before retiring in December 2020, he served as the Cyrenus G. Darling, Sr. and Cyrenus G. Darling, Jr. professor of surgery for Michigan Medicine and spent 40 years as a faculty member at the University of Michigan. Early on in his career, he was involved in developing and improving hepatic artery infusion chemotherapy, a technique that continuously sends chemotherapy directly to the liver.

But he’s known more for his longstanding mentorship to decades of residents and faculty as well as a willingness to take on the most serious cases and an unwavering dedication to patients. (His operative schedule often ended well after midnight on Fridays and he was affectionately referred to as “Friday Night Lights.”)

“Dr. Knol is the most knowledgeable surgeon that I have ever met,” a patient wrote in an online review. “I have known him for 20-plus years and am heartbroken he is retiring. He has taken very good care of me and helped me stay alive for 18 years as a stage IV cancer patient. I have sent him numerous patients over the years, and he has taken good care of all of them.”

“Those of us whose careers have been blessed by the opportunity to overlap with his can agree that none of us has ever met a doctor more wholly committed to his patients,” said Clifford Cho, the C. Gardner Child Professor of Surgery in the Division of Hepatopancreatobiliary and Advanced Gastrointestinal Surgery at Michigan Medicine. “For him, there was never a detail that was too small or an hour that was too late.”