At work and at home, Hinson-Knipple puts children first

One aspect of Lindsay Hinson-Knipple’s job never gets old.
“It really gets me excited to think about the fact that you’ve got this little being, in water, not breathing, not eating, not doing anything,” she says, “and within seconds you’re holding them in your hands and they’re breathing air and they’re crying and they’re a little person, you know, that eats and drinks. It’s just crazy.”

Dr. Hinson-Knipple, a type-A high achiever if there ever was one, brings miracles into this world on a daily basis. The 2004 Wingate graduate lives and works in Tampa, Florida, where she is a partner in an OB/GYN practice. The dedication she showed as an overachieving volleyball player and essentially flawless student at Wingate has carried over into her postgrad life, where, in addition to her 60-hour weeks at Women’s Care Florida, she and her husband, former Bulldog quarterback and current middle-school P.E. teacher Shane Knipple, are raising three kids of their own while regularly foster-parenting a fourth.

One day last fall, Hinson-Knipple was scheduled to be interviewed on camera in her home the day before the family’s latest foster child was due to be placed with a relative, after 15 months with the Knipples. It was an emotional day, with the 5-year-old boy trying to process the separation. Hinson-Knipple was also on call that week, which meant that sleep was a precious commodity. She was operating on a series of power naps, having delivered five bundles of joy to grateful parents the night before.

With a doctor’s schedule and a full house, Hinson-Knipple recharges when she can.

“If I’ve got five minutes, I can fall asleep for five minutes and then wake up,” she says. “That’s a learned skill. You get it when you can get it.”

Internally Hinson-Knipple may have been operating on autopilot, but outwardly she remained accommodating, courteous, bright and bubbly throughout the day. Adrenaline is her friend, and has been for much of her life. At Wingate, the first-generation college student graduated first in her class, with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, while also helping turn Wingate’s volleyball program into conference champs. All the while, she was a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Student Government Association, volunteered at a local senior center and served as an FCA camp counselor.

Hinson-Knipple has continued her seemingly impossible schedule into adulthood. Not even five years after joining Women’s Care Florida, she felt moved to add more to her plate by helping satisfy a dire need in Hillsborough County: safe, stable temporary housing for children.For all her accomplishments, last year Hinson-Knipple was honored as a distinguished alumnae by the South Atlantic Conference, 14 years after she won that league’s Presidents Award, the SAC’s highest honor.

“Most people know she’s an incredible woman,” says Shane Knipple, who graduated from Wingate alongside Lindsay Hinson and married her soon after. “I’ve seen that more and more as we’ve started to foster, and just her heart. She totally deserves everything she’s awarded, everything she gets.”

Committing and following through

Lindsay Hinson-Knipple has had only one real job in her life. “This practice in Tampa is the practice I started with, and I’ve stayed there,” she says. “My only big-girl job.”

At her office and in the maternity ward of a nearby hospital, Hinson-Knipple transitions smoothly from task to task. She examines patients, gives advice, makes diagnoses, does some surgery (both minor and major) and, of course, delivers babies – thousands of them over the years.

Hectic schedules have been the norm for the Florida native for as long as she can remember, even before the 80-hour weeks of residency and the demands of work and family she has now. In high school, in Tallahassee, she was a diligent student, bordering on obsessive, while also excelling at volleyball. “I tend to err on the side of being a little bit of a perfectionist,” she says. “I can admit that.”

Hinson-Knipple is the daughter of two hard-working, self-made success stories who made stick-to-itiveness a central part of their parenting philosophy. Neither parent went to college, but her father built a successful construction business, and her mother has been the assistant to the president of the Florida Senate for years.

“They both instilled in me the value of working hard and committing,” Hinson-Knipple says, “and I think people appreciate that, committing yourself to something and knowing you're going to stick it out and do your best.”

That perseverance spilled over onto the volleyball court, where Hinson-Knipple felt like she had to put in extra time to be a significant contributor to the team. “Being a good volleyball player wasn’t something that necessarily came naturally to me,” she says. “I felt like I really had to work hard. I was a little bit shorter than the majority of my team. I had to kind of fight for some positions.”

After high school, Hinson-Knipple knew she wanted to continue playing volleyball, but she didn’t think playing at a big university would fit with her academic goals. She was already looking ahead to med school, and she narrowed her search to out-of-state schools where she wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

She and a high-school teammate, Carolyn Corry, took a trip north from Tallahassee to visit schools in North Carolina. They were smitten by the Wingate campus almost immediately.“

I think from the moment we stepped on campus we really felt like it was a family,” Hinson-Knipple says.

At Wingate, Hinson-Knipple didn’t miss a beat academically, and ultimately volleyball became all she’d hoped it would be too. When she arrived on the campus in the fall of 2000, the volleyball Bulldogs were not the South Atlantic Conference juggernaut they’ve come to be nearly 20 years later. They had won only one conference title, in 1995, and had never been to the NCAA Tournament.

That changed in the fall of 2003, Hinson-Knipple’s final season, when the Bulldogs won 24 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time. It was the start of something special. After a subpar 2004, the program has gone on to win at least 25 games each season since 2005, including nine seasons with at least 30 wins.

Hinson-Knipple finished her career in second place all-time in program history in digs, a fitting stat for an overachiever.

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Shelton Collier, Wingate’s head coach since 2002, recalls the outside hitter’s poise, no matter the fortunes of the team.

“She was always so classy with everything – how she carried herself, how she spoke, how she handled everything from volleyball to relationships to adversity,” he says. “Always calm and classy.

Hinson-Knipple left Wingate with a slew of awards, from both the school and the SAC, plus an engagement ring, courtesy of Shane. After their wedding, it was time for medical school, where Hinson-Knipple’s commitment and dedication would come in handy.

Caring for mother and child

Hinson-Knipple wasn’t sure what to expect when she enrolled in medical school at Florida State. Would she be up to the challenge, having come from a small school? “Absolutely, for sure I was prepared,” she says. “But it’s a whole new ballgame going from being at the top of your class to being in the middle of everyone who was at the top of their class. It’s a big adjustment.”

Hinson-Knipple did more than simply “adjust,” though. In 2008 she received the Arthur Clements Excellence in OB/GYN Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the Florida State University College of Medicine.

She went on to do her four-year residency at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, and there she was named the Outstanding OB/GYN Resident Teacher in 2009 and 2010. She was also the primary investigator on a research paper, “Single-dose Postpartum Therapy for Chorioamnionitis,” that was published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

She’d originally thought of becoming a pediatrician, but while she was doing rotations at Florida State the sheer variety involved with obstetrics/gynecology began to appeal to her. “I was worried I would get bored in the office every day,” she says.

That’s hardly a problem for an OB/GYN. The difficulty lies more in handling the emotional roller coaster of reproduction. There are the nervous dads, the C-sections, even the rare bad news.

“This is not always a happy job,” Hinson-Knipple says. “There’s beauty in that too. To be able to be with someone during that moment and watch them come out the other side and then years later maybe have another baby or work through that in some way. To be entrusted with that too is cool.”

Most often, though, the deliveries go smoothly – not that every father is ready for it. Hinson-Knipple has dealt with every type of parent on delivery day. “We’ve got the blinder father who doesn’t want to look anywhere at all in the delivery, doesn’t want to be involved at all,” she says. “We’ve got the one that sits in the corner in the chair. We’ve got the people who are super involved. And sometimes we have to tell them they look like they’re about to fall out on the floor and they need to sit down.”

Hinson-Knipple says she experiences a slight thrill when she’s out and about in Tampa and encounters children she’s delivered. It’s one of many delights that go along with the job.

“It is an honor to be trusted with somebody’s child,” she says. ‘We have patients who have been infertile for seven years and they tried and tried and tried and they get pregnant and go through this whole pregnancy, and then you’re the one that gets to hand the baby to them. I mean, that’s just a cool thing.”

As if bringing thousands of healthy Floridians into this world isn’t enough, Hinson-Knipple began feeling a yearning a couple of years ago to give back even more to the community. As she started researching, she discovered that Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, has a disproportionately high number of children displaced from their families. That point was driven home one day as the Knipples sat in church, listening to a speaker describe the need for foster parents in Tampa.“

Lindsay was there and heard him speak, and she just came to me and said, ‘I really think we need to do this,’” Shane Knipple says.Hinson-Knipple says: “Shane and I looked at each other and just said, ‘Here’s a need, and we have space, and we have resources, and we have love, and we have a place for a kid to call home. This really is a no-brainer.’”

They set their parameters – for one thing, they didn’t want to bring in any children older than their youngest child – and waited for the first call. The Knipples were cheering on the Florida State football team in a game at the University of South Florida when the phone rang. The agency needed someone to take in a 2-year-old girl.

Shane and Lindsay jumped at the opportunity. “They said, ‘Will you take her?’” Hinson-Knipple says. “We said, ‘Of course we will! Of course!’”

Enthusiasm aside, bringing in a foster child was somewhat daunting.

“The first placement you’re terrified,” Shane says. “Here’s this other life that’s coming to you with this trauma they’ve just gone through, and, you know, you’re thinking to yourself, I’m not equipped to deal with this. That is really where you just have to lean on God and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to need you to help me here.’”

The girl stayed with them for eight months before being sent to live with one of her aunts. The second placement was with them for 15 months.

As expected, there have been highs and lows as the Knipples have brought on board temporary family members, but they say it’s been worth it.

“It’s challenging on some levels, but overall, gosh, it’s been so rewarding, and we will continue,” Hinson-Knipple says. “I can’t see walking away at this point knowing the need and knowing how mutually beneficial it’s been for our family, for these kids and for the community.”