SALISBURY — Most optometrists don’t have a YouTube channel, but Dr. Melanie Denton Dombrowski isn’t most eye doctors.
When Dombrowski opened Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear five years ago, she wanted to be different.
“I definitely want to be the cool eye doctor,” Dombrowski said.
Unlike some optometrists’ offices, Dombrowski’s practice feels personal and relaxed. Her office on East Council Street is a clinical center, but in some ways is more similar in style to a trendy boutique.
“I want it to feel like home and more welcoming and not so sterile,” Dombrowski said. “It’s certainly a medical facility, but I want it to feel like a place everyone is welcome.
While Dombrowski has distinguished herself through the way she’s set up her office and with her presence on YouTube and social media, she’s also separated herself from her peers by winning the John D. Robinson award for clinical excellence. The award, given by the N.C. Optometric Society, is bestowed to an optometrist who “has exemplified excellence in the clinical practice of primary eye care and ophthalmic medicine.”
Dombrowski received the award on a Zoom call that took the place of the N.C. Optometric Society’s fall banquet earlier this month.
On that same Zoom call was her great-uncle, Olee Olsen, also an optometrist. He received the award as well. Neither knew that they were receiving the award, only that the other family member was.
“It was a surprise and pleasant surprise,” said Olsen, who retired in 2005 and now lives in the Boone area. “I was honored. There have only been 25 recipients of the award in the last 20 years and when there are over 1,300 optometrists in the state of North Carolina, that’s a pretty select group.”
For Dombrowski, being honored with the same award at the same time as her great-uncle was a special moment. After all, Olsen is responsible for Dombrowski becoming an optometrist in North Carolina in the first place.
Coming to Carolina
Even though she grew up as a “farm kid” in a rural town in Michigan, Dombrowski always had ambitions to work in the medical field. While attending the University of Michigan, she worked as an EMT and helped out in the emergency room, hoping to find her lane in medicine. That’s when her dad gave her some advice.
“At some point in college, my dad told me to reach out to my great-uncle and I did,” Dombrowski said. “That’s really what prompted me to come to this state, because he had practiced here his whole career and it was really neat to get to know him. He kind of convinced me to go into optometry.”
Olsen, who maintained a practice in the Charlotte region for decades before retiring, was a major influence for Dombrowski.
After graduating from the University of Michigan’s optometry school, Dombrowski completed several externships, including a stint at…
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