Jessica Vinsant is a fourth generation physician in East Tennessee, with her paternal grandfather and great-grandfather both practicing in Maryville until their deaths. Vinsant has spent almost her entire life in Knoxville. She went to college in New York and worked briefly in Ohio and in Johnson City before moving back here. Now a general and breast surgeon, she is the first female partner at Premier Surgical Associates. She attributes her success to the sacrifices of a woman who came before her: her mother.
You are granted one wish to change one thing about Knoxville — what do you choose?
I really think Knoxville is a pretty great place, but if I had to say anything it would be road construction. That’s been going on for my entire life here and I’m from here. I’m pretty sure there’s always been road construction on the interstate, especially on Alcoa Highway.
There’s an unsung hero in every town — who is it in Knoxville and why?
My mom. She gave up her career as a nurse to raise my brothers and me along with my dad, of course. But she was a stay at home mom and was always there for us. One of my brothers and I had a learning disability and she was always there to get us what we needed and cheer us all on.
Two of us are physicians now and one is a lawyer, so I feel that she really did a good job of teaching us and helping us learn what we needed to learn in life.
She was just willing to give up and sacrifice her own desires to make sure we had everything that we needed.
It’s hard to believe, but you’re closing in on the midpoint of your career — what achievement stands out most?
Becoming the first female partner in Premier Surgical Associates.
What mistake did you learn the most from?
Don’t take time with anyone for granted because they may not always be there.
You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve moved away for school which I don’t regret, but also I didn’t get to spend as much time with my grandfather before he passed, and currently my mom is sick. I don’t think I’ve taken any time for granted with her, but it’s becoming more evident that she doesn’t have much time left.
So just don’t take spending time with people you care about for granted.
What’s a talent, hobby or adventure you’ve had that no one knows about?
I’m pretty open so most people would know if I’ve gone on any fun adventures. I can knit; a lot of people know that already, but that’s something I do.
What was your first job?
Besides babysitting, my first real job was as a hostess at Lone Star Steakhouse, which was funny because I’m vegetarian, but it was the only place I could find a job that did not require any previous experience.
If I could have any job in the world, I would be ____________________. (Can’t choose the field you’re in)
Either a professional traveler — whether that’s for a magazine or whatever — or something having to do with animal rescue
What would most surprise your childhood self about you now?
The funny answer would be that I’m tired all the time because as a kid I never wanted to sleep. I never wanted to calm down or admit that I was tired, and now I am always tired.
But um, maybe also that I like broccoli. I also did not like that as a kid. Just mundane stuff I would say.
What trait do you most want in a coworker?
What is the most overrated piece of business advice you’ve heard?
“The customer is always right.” It just comes up in medicine. Of course we’re going to do whatever the patient wants. But I would not say they are always necessarily right. There is so much information that’s false on the internet. We follow what they want, but saying “The customer is always right” doesn’t apply necessarily to medicine.
But they are always the final decision maker and the boss of their own bodies.
Let’s imagine it’s Dec. 31, 2021 — what was your biggest accomplishment during the year?
Things are so constantly changing, especially right now. I don’t have any idea what would be my most significant accomplishment 15 months from now because things are just constantly changing.
How do you want people to describe you when you’re not in the room?
Friendly, kind, funny.