Home Ownership Models Practice Evolves to Suit This Family of Four ODs

Practice Evolves to Suit This Family of Four ODs

(l-r) Dr. Jeffrey Fimreite, Dr. Vanessa Grichine, Dr. Michael Fimreite and Dr. Patricia Atie

As the child of two optometrists, Vanessa Grichine, OD, MS, FAAO, knew early on she wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps. While they never pushed the career on her, her parents, Jeffrey Fimreite, OD, and Patricia A. Atie, OD, FCOVD, were the embodiment of ‘when you do what you love every day, you never work a day in your life’.

Dr. Grichine recalls from her childhood that she often saw her patients coming home from work happy, discussing how they improved a patient’s vision or excited to share that they saw a long-time patient again that they had been treating for years. That realization made her gravitate toward optometry. However, since her parents had graduated top of their class at Southern California College of Optometry, and Dr. Grichine wanted to make her name known, so she went across the country to carve her own path at the SUNY College of Optometry.

Around the same time as Dr. Grichine was preparing to head to New York, her older brother, Michael Fimreite OD, FAAO, had finished his studies in business and had joined the practice to help their dad with some business ideas. He, too, became drawn to optometry as a career, so he decided to complete his prerequisites and pursued his optometry degree at Western University College of Optometry. Brother and sister each graduated their respective programs in 2016.

Joining the family business, PAJE Optometric, straight out of school was not part of the plan. “It was my husband’s idea that they go see how other practices operate and grow their optometric knowledge on their own,” says Dr. Atie. Dr. Grichine did just that. Right after graduation, Dr. Grichine got married and moved to Texas for a short time before heading to San Francisco, CA. There she worked as the Clinical Director in a new LASIK center in downtown San Francisco. Soon, Dr. Grichine’s reputation in the refractive surgery community led to the opportunity to move back to Southern California to be the Clinical Director of NVision Laser Eye Centers.  Dr. Grichine remained in this job for many years, and while she loved the work, she did not love the hours. “Between seeing 40-45 patients a day, plus hosting OD dinners and teaching CE courses, I was working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. My daughter had just been born and she barely knew who I was,” she recalls.

OPPORTUNITY ARISES

After working many years at the LASIK center, the opportunity arose for Dr. Grichine to acquire her own private practice and expand her parent’s office into Southern Orange County. With the blessing of her current employer, Dr. Grichine made a quick change in careers from Clinical Director to private practice business owner within two weeks.  Three years later Dr. Grichine has grown this practice into a thriving specialty practice that conducts clinical trails, is an externship site for the SUNY College of Optometry and administers primary patient care.

SHARING THE WORKLOAD

This Optometric family offers a wide array of services and specialists. Father and son specialize in Institutional Eyecare, traveling to skilled nursing facilities and convalescent homes. “The demand is large and growing,” says Dr. Atie, “but the men in our family love been able to provide these services to those in need.”

The original location of PAJE Optometric is large, full-scope office. It’s a full-service practice that specializes in ocular disease and also serves as a research site for contact lens and other clinical studies.  Dr. Atie, who speaks English, Spanish, Arabic, French and American Sign Language, also frequently travels internationally to teach surgical techniques, but thankfully Dr. Grichine can cover for her mom when the need arises. “Our second location is smaller; we have almost every piece of equipment, but not an optical coherence tomography equipment, for example. We just don’t have the space. Thankfully though our two practices are just 25 minutes apart so I can refer patients to the larger office when additional testing is indicated. Dr. Grichine often jokes with her patients and tells them, ‘Don’t worry, the optometrist at the other office knows what she’s doing – she taught me everything I know…for my whole life. She is my mother.”

Not only do Mother and daughter bare a very strong resemblance to each other in their clinical techniques, but their physical appearance is similar enough that it sometimes confuses patients, especially when they don’t have their refractive correction on. “My, you haven’t aged at all,” a patient may tell Dr. Grichine, thinking she’s Dr. Atie.

This duo also enjoys running together, and in 2023, the two crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon holding hands. Dr. Atie has qualified to run in the Berlin Marathon this year, which means she will be one step closet to her goal of running in the six premier marathons in the world: Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.  It will be Dr. Atie’s 18th marathon; with Dr. Grichine trailing close behind her with 14 marathons completed.

Dr. Atie says that she and her husband opened their own practice so many years ago so that they could not only have control over their work schedules, but so they could also focus on raising and being present for their two children, who now both have children of their own. They’re happy that they have passed that desire onto the next generation and that the practice continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community while Dr. Atie and Dr. Fimreite enjoy more time being grandparents. Only time will tell if this family dynasty will expand into a third generation.

 

Read more ownership models from WO here.

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