With blue eyes and sandy blonde hair, Lukasz Cygan, D.O., is considered respectable, kind, modest, altruistic, hard working and a guide for students at St. Joseph’s College.
Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you; If you run into a wall don’t turn around and give up, figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” For Dr. Cygan, that determination and discipline he learned on the basketball court is now applied to his career. “There are some hard days, but you have to just keep going,” he says.
A 2007 graduate of SJC’s Brooklyn Campus, Dr. Cygan explains that his experience with the men’s basketball team significantly influenced him throughout his career. “Being part of the basketball team has helped me in the medical field because I’m a team player,” Dr. Cygan says. “I don’t complain and I do what’s good for the team.”
Born in Poland, Dr. Cygan moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, when was he was 5 years old and still lives there to this day. Prior to attending the College, he was a student at Xaverian High School, where his basketball coach pointed him in the direction of St. Joseph’s.
“I applied and got a full academic scholarship,” Dr. Cygan says. “That sealed the deal because I knew I was going to stay home, and after hearing SJC was a small school, I thought it would be a pretty good fit for my personality.” The full ride was a major advantage. However, the opportunity to continue his basketball career became an even greater benefit.
“What really helped me at St. Joe’s was the small school and the family atmosphere,” he says.
In his sophomore year at SJC, Dr. Cygan was struggling academically. “I didn’t have a great semester as a freshman and I was on probation for my scholarship,” he says. Noticing that he was underachieving, then-Academic Dean S. Margaret Buckley, C.S.J., Ed.D., pulled him aside, reminded him of his potential and asked what he wanted to do in life.
“I told her I was thinking about trying to get into medical school and, given that I wasn’t pre-med, she laid out the track I needed to take all of my required courses,” Dr. Cygan says. “That spontaneous, 10-minute meeting put me on the track that I am still on today.”
Like the support he gained on the basketball court, Dr. Cygan received the same assistance for his academics at St. Joseph’s, with the help of S. Margaret. “In order for me to graduate on time, she changed the class schedule just so I could take the prerequisites in two years instead of three,” he explains. “Following that meeting, I finished my required courses in my last two years, raised my GPA from a 3.2 to a 3.7 and was accepted into medical school.”
Before graduating in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Dr. Cygan spent four years as a forward on the Bears basketball team and served as co-captain in his senior year. From there, Dr. Cygan attended the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury and graduated in May 2012 with a Doctor of Osteopathy. He is now in his second year of an allopathic (M.D.) residency at Staten Island University Hospital.
“I’m at a great place,” he says, “and it has good training.”
While working in the emergency room, Dr. Cygan completes 12-hour shifts, which, for the most part, turn into 13- or 14-hour shifts.
“I’m the first doctor that you see,” he says. “We decide whether you go home, stay or if you need anything to save your life.” Although the work may seem extensive at times, Dr. Cygan enjoys every minute of it. “There’s never a boring day and my specialty is awesome,” he says. “So far so good.”
Similar to his experience on the basketball court, Dr. Cygan’s ability to react and make quick decisions under pressure is crucial for the medical field. “My whole life, I never thought I would become a doctor because it never occurred to me that I had that kind of potential,” he says.
For many athletes, the love for the game never dies and, like Dr. Cygan, there comes an opportunity to be reunited once more.
Back in his first year of medical school at NYCOM, SJC basketball coach Joseph Cocozello asked Dr. Cygan if he wanted to assist him in coaching the team. At first, Dr. Cygan declined the offer, since school was his primary focus. When Coach Cocozello asked again in Lukasz’s second year of med school, he was eager to try it out.
“I’ve been coaching ever since,” Dr. Cygan says. “This year, I was a volunteer coach because I have to commit to my job,” Dr. Cygan explains. Even though his work in the medical field requires a lot of his time, Dr. Cygan remains dedicated to his team at St. Joe’s.
“I owe a lot to them,” he continues, regarding Coach Cocozello and Athletics Director Frank Carbone. “They gave me a great opportunity and a great four years.”
Though Dr. Cygan mentions his gratitude towards the College and the education he received from SJC, he has a particular appreciation for the athletic program. “When you’re an athlete you feel that sense of loyalty to the school and I want to give back,” he says. “I hope to stay involved at SJC as much as I can.”
Above all, Dr. Cygan enjoys being a guide for his aspiring students. “Not long ago, I was in their shoes,” he says. “We have a couple of athletes now that want to be doctors, and when they see me, they realize that they could do the same thing. It’s pretty cool. I like that mentor relationship, and my goal for them is to get into medical school.”
Whether it’s on the basketball court or in the emergency room,assisting others has always been one of the greatest qualities about Dr. Cygan. With this, he advises students to enter into the medical field with good intentions.
“The money is not the reason to go in for it,” he says. “If you like taking care of people and working with people, then it’s the job for you. Otherwise you’re going to be miserable. Do it for the altruistic reasons. Do it because you care about people.”
Although Dr. Cygan has spent years preparing for his profession, he explains that each phase carries a new surprise. “Every year, you’re never sure if you’re ready for the next step,” he says. “But it’s a rewarding job and you feel a sense of duty by becoming part of that team also.
“From St. Joe’s to residency, it’s all the same type of thing. It has helped me and my outlook a lot.
“I love my life,” Dr. Cygan continued, “and I’m enjoying it.”