Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Co-Director, Fishkind, Bakewell, & Maltzman Eye Care & Surgery Center
Favorite courses: Organic Chemistry and Microbiology.
Advice: “Never lose track of your humanity and always treat people the way that you want them to treat you.”
“I’ve found that there’s been a little bit of luck in everything that’s happened throughout my life,” says William Fishkind. While a bit of luck may play into every life, there’s no denying that Dr. Fishkind’s success has been hard-earned and passionately pursued, making him one of the world’s most respected ophthalmologists.
After completing a biology major at Adelphi, he chose to pursue his medical degree at Tufts University School of Medicine. “I was enthralled by the quality of education I would receive there,” he recalls. However, upon completing his internship, Dr. Fishkind knew he was not yet ready to embark on his residency, in which he would receive in-depth training within a specific branch of medicine. “I didn’t yet know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go,” he recalls.
Although uncertain of what his next step would be, the clock was ticking. “At the time, the Vietnam War was raging, and I had a low draft number,” he recalls. “If I took a hiatus from medical school, I would be drafted into the war.”
In lieu of military service abroad, he joined the Indian Health Service, a division within the United States Public Health Service. His medical degree and fluency in Spanish contributed to his success as a general medical officer, providing care for three tribes at the Indian Hospital in Sacaton, Arizona. By 1973, he was named medical director of the hospital.
Recognizing the high quality of care and medical services that the hospital was providing, Dr. Fishkind saw a need for the hospital to be accredited. Under his direction, the hospital was approved by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, and Dr. Fishkind received a medal and commendation for his work. He fondly remembers his time at the Indian Health Service: “It was everything I dreamed medicine to be.”
He continued working at the hospital until 1975, after which he was recruited by the head of Harvard Medical School to be trained in a new internal medicine program. During his three-year residency, he had the opportunity to rotate through Harvard’s hospitals, gaining experience in many specialties as he ascended the ranks to senior chief resident.
During the last year of his rotations, he was invited to assist in a cataract surgery and lens insertion. “It was then that I decided I wanted ophthalmology,” he recalls. “The level of finesse, precision, and expertise involved was exactly what I was looking for.”
Despite having already decided that he would become an ophthalmologist, Dr. Fishkind intended to finish what he started. “I was recruited to be an internist,” he recalls. “I made a deal with the head of the Harvard internal medicine program that if I completed the program and passed the internal medicine boards, he would write a letter of recommendation for me.”
He went on to complete his residency in ophthalmology in 1980 from the U.S. Public Health Service and Louisiana State University in New Orleans, after which he landed a job working in an ophthalmology practice in Tucson, Arizona. He spent one year working there, before deciding to open his own practice. What began as a small operation transformed into Fishkind, Bakewell, & Maltzman Eye Care & Surgery Center, which today has five doctors providing eye care to patients in three locations, including an outpatient surgery center, where 1,500 surgeries are performed yearly.
In addition to maintaining a practice, Dr. Fishkind has conducted extensive research, primarily in small-incision cataract surgery techniques and designs for intraocular lenses. One model of intraocular lenses he created was the best-selling lens from 1990 to 1993. He also shares his wealth of knowledge and experience with students as a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Utah, and he teaches residents at the University of Arizona. Dr. Fishkind is an author and editor of textbooks, and also lectures across the United States on the topic of cataract surgery (phacoemulsification). He is a consultant regarding the use of modern phacoemulsification equipment and is in the process of creating teaching videos for this machinery.
When Dr. Fishkind was not admitted to Adelphi as a transfer student, he approached the University’s dean of admissions with a proposition. “If I could make honors my first year, I would be allowed to stay,” he says. By the close of the second semester of his sophomore year, Dr. Fishkind’s hard work had paid off. He was awarded for his academic excellence, earning his spot on the honors list, and thus achieving his ultimate goal: the opportunity to earn his bachelor’s degree from Adelphi. “Adelphi gave me a chance,” he says.
Today Dr. Fishkind and his wife live in Tucson, Arizona. They have two children and two grandchildren. In his free time, he enjoys exercising, writing, and flying airplanes.