Meghan Riegel, OD, almost completed the first year of operating her new practice, Good Looks Optometry, in Stewart Manor, New York, before COVID-19 forced its temporary closure. Located on Long Island in a region still hit hard by the pandemic, Dr. Riegel is looking forward to reopening. “I’m nervous, but I’m anxious to get going again,” she says.
Following her 2014 graduation from SUNY College of Optometry, Dr. Riegel worked three days a week in a private practice that helped reaffirm her philosophy for care—the kind of full-scope practice that she would want to open herself one day. She also filled in two days a week in other part-time positions, ranging from corporate-affiliated to ophthalmology, gaining a broader range of experience.
Dr. Riegel recently celebrated her second wedding anniversary to Jimmy Riegel. Getting married and feeling settled was the push the couple wanted to jumpstart the practice opening. “My dream to open my own private practice in my hometown started before I ever applied to optometry schools. When I started dating Jimmy, he supported the endeavor but asked that we wait until we got married,” she says. “We joke that I started looking for the practice location as soon as I stepped foot off the plane from our honeymoon.”
Although Stewart Manor, in Nassau County, borders the borough of Queens, the couple found a charming street that seems more village than city, right in her hometown. “I felt I had a lot of personal and emotional connections. I am passionate about giving back and supporting this community. It has a tight-knit community feel and a lot of the locals try to support small businesses,” she says.
Her storefront faces a popular shopping avenue so it provides good visibility and foot traffic. Her mother creates whimsical holiday displays in the windows that stop the passersby. “I wanted the look and feel of my practice to be welcoming and enjoyable. Our slogan is ‘Professional Care with a Neighborhood Feel.’ I love that patients stop in to say hi when they are shopping on the avenue.”
Or at least, they did until COVID. “Upon reopening, I hope to continue our clean and professional environment while somehow retaining a warm and welcoming feeling,” she says. This week, she anticipates reopening four days a week, with just her providing all the services. Her husband, whose background is in finance, dedicates time outside of his usual full time job to help with many aspects of practice management.
READY TO GO
For various personal reasons, her two employees won’t be able to return to the practice this week as she reopens to routine care, she says. However, she’s not too stressed about that. “Because I started cold, I wanted to know the ins and outs of everything. When ODs buy into an existing practice, there are already staff members in place who manage aspects of the practice, but there’s no job here that I haven’t done already.”
She’s also been in contact with her patients during the state’s stay-at-home orders. “I started offering telemedicine exams specifically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I still wanted to make myself available to new and existing patients during this time. I found that a majority of the patients whom I saw via telehealth were comforted with peace of mind knowing a doctor was available to observe the condition, give advice and prescribe if needed,” she says. She has been into the office periodically, even to see patients who had issues or concerns that required an in-person exam.
Even though the office has not been open for two months, Dr. Riegel has been busy with administrative work throughout. “I’ve been working on so many things that I did not have time to do before.”