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Joining the Family Business

Daughter adds her own specialties to thriving family practices

Liza Smith Koepke, OD, was about six months old when her father Steven D. Smith, OD, opened Rancho Santa Margarita Optometry in 1989. “Rancho Santa Margarita was a brand new city then and not a lot of people knew where this was,” Dr. Koepke says. “But as the city has grown, the business has, as well.” In 2004, Dr. Smith opened Ladera Ranch Optometry 15 minutes away in Ladera Ranch, California, and in 2008, Rancho Santa Margarita Optometry relocated down the block into a medical building to provide a more spacious office for its patients.

Dr. Koepke was eager to join the family business once she graduated from Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Optometry three years ago. “I knew that I wanted to settle down in the same area where I grew up,” she says. She filled in as a tech as she waited for her license. Dr. Koepke had been a member of team before, over the summers and on holiday breaks as an undergraduate. “I did every job in the office—receptionist, billing and technician.” Her experiences there and, of course, watching her father inspired her career. “Optometry was always a part of my life growing up,” from her dad to her and her sister’s personal experiences. Dr. Koepke was a high myope early on, and her sister has a genetic vision disorder. “I had a strong tie and interest in how her condition affected her vision.” She finalized her decision to pursue optometry as a sophomore.

                                        Dr. Koepke and her dad Dr. Smith

She brought her own additions to the table as she transitioned from staff member to optometrist. There was always a medical focus in the practices, so Dr. Koepke has introduced some newer studies, treatment options and technology to complement those services. “My dad always tried to stay ahead of the game and on top of tech with topography and retinal cameras, but we didn’t have an OCT when I joined. It has so many wonderful benefits,” that they began researching right away. Now that they’ve added this instrumentation, it is a great addition in many types of exams from glaucoma patients to contact lens patients for fitting RGP and specialty lenses. “We never did scleral lenses before, so now we’re offering these specialty fittings and I’m teaching our other associates.”

Dr. Koepke says that she has been enjoying laying a foundation for long-time relationships with her patients, just as her dad has. “He’s been seeing some of his patients for almost 30 years, and now we see their kids and even grandkids. We have a long history with our patients and are building great connections with new patients, too, with a focus on making them feel like family and addressing all of their needs.”

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