BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Dr. Derek Vogelpohl isn’t blind to irony.
As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois he got an eye infection and 10 years later he’s partnered up in his own vision center, practicing optometry.
Vogelpohl and West Point native Tony Menke have had the doors open on the Clear View Vision Center. at 1001 Avenue H, in the northern suite for about a month now.
The smell of fresh wood and paint, and a welcoming and sanitized staff await patients in the rehabilitated Bentler Rental’s building.
Dustin Ilmberger bought and basically rebuilt the building for retail space over the past several years. He had plans to make the northern suite two spaces, but Menke said when he first got in to see the new space, he did some measurements and told Ilmberger they’d need the whole thing.
Vogelpohl grew up southeast of Quincy in Pittsfield, a town of about 4,000. He said he pursued the traditional higher education path and did undergrad work at University of Illinois, before moving to the Illinois College of Optometry where he graduated in 2013.
“I had this killer eye infection when I started undergrad, which is really kind of comical when you consider how bad I was as a patient for my eye doctor,” he said with a laugh, that seems to go with a palpable, easy, chair-side manner.
“I slept in my contacts, I didn’t have back up glasses, had this raging eye infection, went to undergrad very near-sighted and couldn’t see squat. Week one on this big campus and I couldn’t see anything…. Then I end up becoming an eye doctor.”
Vogelpohl started a conversation with his local optometrist who got him in the business, and actually employed him for about a year.
Eventually Vogelpohl ended up in Burlington at a practice there and has been serving southeast Iowa patients for the past six years, where he connected with Tony.
“My wife and I have fallen in love with southeast Iowa. We’re putting some roots down – and here we are.”
Vogelpohl said if you had talked to him even two years ago he would have had no interest in doing something independently. But he said as you mature you see things you may want to do different but don’t have control over.
He said he was ready for a change and developed a desire to be a business owner and more effectively serve his patients.
Menke is a partner with Vogelpohl and handles the business side of the work so Vogelpohl can focus on patient care. Menke said it was important for them to find a local place serving area patients with local ownership.
“We didn’t find anything that really fit outside. I just happened to stop by and looked inside and thought this had potential,” Menke said.
So he tracked down Ilmberger and got a look at the inside and it snowballed from there.
“Literally from the time I met with him, we made the decision and told him, ‘Yeah, this is going to work for us’.”
Menke and Vogelpohl liked the idea of having space downtown with easy access, and Ilmberger’s location also provided additional parking and spaces close to the front of the building for patients.
The two took a lease with the location in June and opened the doors on Aug. 3.
“He’s got an unbelievable following. We’re locally owned. I live in Fort Madison, and he lives in Burlington and is down here every day. And our staff is local,” Menke said.
“I have the building know-how, the insurance and financial side of the things. I have exposure to all of that. But he’s the doctor. That’s his expertise. I handle the business side and that’s why this works so well.”
The two currently have four staff members in the office, all from Lee and Des Moines counties, including two opticians, a technician and a patient services coordinator.
“They’re all just great. They’re top-notch at what they do, and they’re familiar faces in their communities,” Vogelpohl said.
“Our motivation behind doing this is a focus here, build a practice here, provide the best care for our patients – and then see what happens.”
The vision center accepts most insurance, Medicare/Medicaid programs and has a full line of optical supplies. They can be reached at 319-316-6016. Hours are Monday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More information can be found at center’s website at www.clearviewvision.com.