AFTER TOYING WITH THE IDEA OF BECOMING A DENTIST, THIS MID ISLAND OPTOMETRIST QUICKLY FOUND HIMSELF FASCINATED BY ADVANCED EYE CARE
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
Dr. Michal Zylinski always knew that he wanted to pursue a career in the field of medicine; in fact, healthcare had been a priority of his since he was a teen. But before committing his future to the field of optometry, he played a little basketball first.
“I was always a social kid, loved being part of a team,” the optometrist said while recalling his high school and college sports career, first as a varsity player at New Utrecht in Brooklyn, where he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game, then as a walk on guard during his senior year at Stony Brook University. “It was always a big part of my life.”
At 6 foot 4 inches tall, Zylinski can still be seen on the court banking jump shots during downtime between patients in the courtyard behind Williams Eye Works in Westerleigh. But his true passion is helping patients see.
“Whether it’s fitting a 7 year old for his or her first pair of glasses, showing a teenager the benefits of contacts, or making the newspaper a little clearer for a 90 year old, the reaction they give is priceless,” he said.
Born in Monki, Poland, Zylinski came to Brooklyn with his family when he was 11. He first toyed with the idea of becoming a dentist until he shadowed an optometrist during his sophomore year of college.
“I got a chance to look in on a few surgeries… watched as the doctor treated some advanced ocular disease cases, and knew this was the field I wanted to pursue,” he recalled.
He applied to the New England College of Optometry in Boston because it was the oldest and one of the most respected optometry educational institutions in the nation.
“What attracted me to that school is that I knew I would be screening patients in my first year,” he said. “It was a wonderful program, and in my last year I was given plenty of freedom to pursue internships, which were very helpful in shaping the rest of my career.”
Zylinski worked for a time at Omni Eye Services, which has locations in both New York and New Jersey.
“It’s one of the biggest referrals centers on the East Coast, so I was once again able to see and treat patients with advanced ocular disease,” he said, adding that he went on to work at South Boston Community Services Center and a VA Hospital in Long Island.
“That was by far my favorite internship,” he noted.
“Working in a hospital setting and taking care of veterans who served their country was humbling and satisfying.”
When his internships were complete, Zylinski started looking for job opportunities close to home. “Staten Island was very appealing, because I wanted to buy a home and start a family here,” he said. After working at a few different optical centers in the borough, he came upon an opening at Williams Eye Works in 2017.
“Chris Williams and I share the same mentality about optometry, so it was a perfect fit,” said Zylinkski. “He is so focused on patient care. Plus, he’s very involved with the community and devotes a lot of time to helping people in need.”
Devoting time to the community is likewise a passion for Zylinkski, including offering presentations about eye health in a number of local schools as well as making house calls, visiting patients in their homes if they are unable to leave for a screening.
Zylinski further explained that the team at Williams Eye Works uses a range of state of the art technology an insistence upon remaining cutting edge that, to him, sets this practice apart from others in the region.
“For example, we just purchased a new piece of equipment that scans the retina and is able to take pictures of the back of the eye, which furthers our medical capabilities,” he said. “It’s a wonderful new investment that will help us to better diagnose and treat our patients.”
And, for Zylinski, the job is about far more than just fitting patients with eyeglasses.
“We are improving their quality of life,” he concluded. “That look I get when they finally have the right prescription or the perfect frames…that means so much to me.”
Williams Eye Works
1884 Victory Boulevard / 718.273.5000 / /williamseyeworks.com