Vision for tomorrow

Published 11:49 am Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mark Karl, Austin Eye Center manager, Dr. Monica Loppnow, and the rest of the eye clinic’s staff will prepare to move into their new spot at the expanded and renovated Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin by this time next year. — Eric Johnson/

Medical center expansion will give eye clinic extra space

This story originally appeared in Progress 2012. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald.

The Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin Eye Clinic has been at its current location since 1978, and according to Manager Mark Karl, employees and patients have been bumping into each other ever since.

“Traffic flow is a big issue, as we only have the one main hall,” Karl said. “You pretty much have to dodge people to get around in here. … Soon, we’ll have much more room.”

This artist’s rendering shows what the new Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin Eye Clinic — slated to open in February 2013 — looks like.

Email newsletter signup

Luckily, Karl and the rest of the eye center crew will get a new, 9,450-square-foot facility — doubling the size of its 4,717-square-foot clinic — as part of the $28-million medical center expansion project.

The eye center — located at 510 Second St. NW — is one of many medical center services that will receive upgraded facilities, as the 86,500-square-foot, three-story expansion will also create about 70 full-time jobs, including nine new physician positions when it’s slated to open on Feb. 28, 2013.

Karl is also excited about the additional positions. While medical center officials aren’t sure how many jobs will be added for the eye center, it will get one of the nine new physicians, as Karl will add an opthamologist. The eye center currently has two optometrists and one opthamologist, and the upgrade will bring the eye center’s total exam rooms from nine to 14.

“That will be kind of nice because right now we have to make sure we’re not double-booking a room,” Karl said.

Construction continues on the expansion to Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin. By this time next year, the Austin Eye Center will be taking its place inside the addition.

Karl said a fourth physician should help the clinic increase its patient load. Currently, there’s about a two or three week wait to see physicians, and an extra opthamologist should ease that.

“Doctors can only see so many people per day, but especially with a fourth provider, traffic should be quit a bit higher than it is right now,” he said.

With the new facility comes additional equipment, and five times the retail space, increasing the number of eyeglass frames from about 450 to 1,000.

Beyond the extra space and added physician, the new facility should be a big help in another area: communication.

The average age of the clinic’s patients is 70, according to Karl, so a lot of them are also being treated for glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Being in the same building should greatly increase communication between doctors, according to Dr. Monica Loppnow, an optometrist at the clinic.

“If someone is in urgent care or the emergency room, they’ll send them over here, but it will be much easier to do when we’re in the same building,” she said. “(Patients) will find us easier, and I think it’s going to make communication between doctors much, much easier.”

“I think we’re all looking forward to it,” Karl said. “It’s going to be a huge help to us. It will be something we’re not used to at all. We’re going to enjoy it quite a bit.”