In 1998, Ann Voss, OD, FCOVD, Diplomate ABO, was ready to open her own office and founded Bellaire Family Eye Care. After 10 years, she set out on a track to expand her practice – by bringing in great associates, two of whom have already become partners. “As I added an associate, I could move my overflow patients to them as they were building their own following. I was looking for a team of practitioners who all have their own passions. Everyone sees their own specific population, even as we all do primary care,” she says.
The three doctors — Marcia Moore, OD, FCOVD, Diplomate ABO; Ashley Tucker, OD, FAAO, FSLS, Diplomate ABO; and Aamena Kazmi, OD, Diplomate ABO — bring their unique interests and passions to the practice.
The first to join the squad was Dr. Moore with her specialty in neurorehabilitation and vision therapy. Then came Dr. Tucker, whose specialty contact lens focus helped the practice expand its myopia management reach. Dr. Voss says that while she and Dr. Moore were covering the vision therapy, they say how Dr. Tucker brought in a new and valuable element. “She took that specialty to the next level,” says Dr. Voss. “She teaches, researches and speaks. She is the head of specialty contacts and founded the Contact Lens Institute of Houston within our office.”
Four years ago in 2017, Dr. Kazmi joined the practice with her focus on myopia management and dry eye, another new range of services. Interestingly, all three had completed an internship in the practice while students with UHCO.
EXPANDING SERVICES, EXPANDING FOOTPRINT
With the level of internal growth, the next logical step was to grow the physical space. As it turns out, having multiple associates proved to make the workload and decision fatigue much more manageable, too. “We rely on one another, consult with one another and are there for one another,” says Dr. Voss.
“Together we dreamed, planned, and created this expansion as soon as we knew the space was coming available. The office before was fine, but we said, ‘Let’s make this beautiful,’” says Dr. Voss. “I worked with the architect. Dr. Moore spearheaded the design. Dr. Tucker coordinated the equipment and systems management and Dr. Kazmi contributed with overall support to everyone.
The new space feels like a walk in jewelry box, according to Dr. Moore. Lighting and design were major factors in the overall feel. The practice had this opportunity for expansion right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The orthodontist who leased next door moved out. So now the practice operates two clinics within the same building. “We were able to expand both the general practice and the vision therapy aspect,” says Dr. Moore. Each has its own reception area, but since those are just 30 feet away in the same hallway, it’s very easy for patients to get to either location. Throughout the expansion and remodeling, the practice posted fun videos and photos.
“I was worried this would seem too high end for us,” says Dr. Moore. “Our old space was comfortable. We kept it clean, but it never had a ‘wow.’”
As they found out, their patient base was indeed “wowed” by the new space. The hugely popular redesign also led to a more active optical, which had been stagnant for three to four years, she adds. “We were able to see more patients but also capture more revenue per patient with a more attractive optical dispensary,” she says.
PRACTICING TOGETHER IS MORE FUN NOW
It’s not just the practical benefits of having partners that appeals to Dr. Voss.
“It’s more enjoyable being part of a group of owners,” she says. “When I was on my own, at times I felt alone, battling to make payroll and weighing all the decisions.” In this new family-style system of management, the workload is split, but collaboration and compassion flow freely.
“We have each other,” she says. “The connection is great.”
The addition of new ODs also led to an influx of new patients. “We get 20 percent to 25 percent new patients a year. We keep taking in new patients,” says Dr. Voss. “We have great practitioners and expanded services,” she says. “Since we started in 1998, we’ve grown every year except the 2008 recession and 2020.” That growth and focus was a factor in the practice being chosen as a 2021 Best Practices winner by CooperVision.
“We are strong women, and how we function together is through a lot of mutual respect; talking things through and leaving our egos at the door. What we’ve created gives us a lot of pride.”