Health & Senior Living

Family Eyecare marks 35 years of providing care in Piscataquis County

Special to the Observer
    DOVER-FOXCROFT — In the fall of 1979, Dr. David Frasz opened his office on the second floor of the old Mayo Hospital building, sharing it with his wife Dr. Lesley Fernow. They were among an influx of new physicians to the area after the “new” Mayo Hospital opened in 1978.
    Most of that original group of practitioners, such as doctors Richard Swett, Gary Parker, James Berry, Don Underwood and physician’s assistant Bill Bisbee, have since moved or retired but their contributions to the community endure.
    “And Dr. Fernow and I are still here!” Frasz said. Although he plans to stop doing eye surgeries by the end of this winter, he will still maintain his busy office practice and refer those patients needing surgery to physicians best able to take care of their needs. “I’ve already spoken to some of my colleagues in Bangor,” Frasz explained. “Our patients will be able to stay with our office, go to Bangor or elsewhere for their surgery, then return to our office as our patients if they wish to do so.”
    There were a few speed bumps opening his practice in 1979. “Both the general public and the hospital weren’t quite sure what I was,” Frasz laughed.

    HSL-Frasz-DCX-PO-42     He is a board-certified ophthalmologist, a medical doctor and surgeon specializing in eye care. “They were very happy to have my wife, an internist, but they thought I just did glasses and eye exams,” Frasz said. “So there were delays in getting approval from the state to offer eye surgery at the hospital.”
    This resulted in one seriously injured eye patient having to be transferred to another hospital. “Unfortunately this caused a delay of care.” Frasz was upset and contacted the Bangor Daily News. “An article appeared on the front page the next day, and approval from the state came very fast after that,” he smiled.
    Dr. Frasz’ office is now located in the old Little Red School House building, at the corner of Route 7 and Lawrence Street where he and his assistants take care of surgical patients but also provide regular eye exams and prescriptions for glasses. His staff has been with him for many years and has the experience needed to handle a wide variety of patient problems and concerns.
    “All of our medical assistants are certified,” he noted. One of his staff, Lebra Bergeron, has been with him since the beginning. “Usually patients call and ask for Lebra, not me!” Frasz chuckled.
    He said that the emphasis has always been on service, convenience and expert care. Family Eyecare usually answers phone calls from patients the same day and saves space on the schedule for emergencies. MacInnes Optical offers glasses in its shop across the street.
    Dr. Frasz also introduced to the area such innovations as combined cataract and glaucoma laser surgery. “It’s been very rewarding. Some of our patients have been with us for 20 or 30 years,” he added.
    The office tries to keep fees reasonable, especially for patients without insurance. “Patients need to be careful. Occasionally they will be offered a surgery, particularly laser surgery, which their insurance might not cover. Then they are stuck with a considerable out-of-pocket expense,” he warned.
    Why has Dr. Frasz decided to continue his practice instead of simply retiring? He explained that he is “holding on” in order to try to attract another ophthalmologist to take over and to mentor and orient the new physician to the practice and the community.
    “If I close the office, not only are my employees out of a job, but it would be very hard to re-establish a similar practice in the future.” Frasz noted that the office equipment and instruments for measuring eyes make ophthalmology the most expensive specialty to start up and maintain on a daily basis. “A service call for our laser costs $900, and that’s before the cost of any parts,” he said.
    Mayo Regional Hospital is assisting Frasz in the search for another “eye M.D.” but “it’s difficult everywhere to get younger practitioners to move to outlying areas. Even to Bangor,” he said.
    He has been recruiting now for three years. “There have been several very promising candidates but no takers.”
    Dr. Frasz insists upon a well-qualified candidate. “Interestingly, the most recent one was trained at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, which is one of the best training programs in the country.”
    In the meantime, he has found an optometrist — Dr. Alesia Higgins from Old Town — to help him part-time with the office practice only, on Mondays. “She’s very knowledgeable and has 15 years of experience. Her patients love her. I was lucky she was available.”
    Dr. Frasz remains optimistic about eventually finding the ideal physician for the community as his replacement.
    “While this process has been frustrating, I am confident we will find the perfect match for our community’s needs. But until that time, I want to ensure all of my patients that we will continue to serve them in the reliable and caring manner they have come to expect from us. And again, I’m not leaving, I just won’t be performing surgery after this winter,” concluded Dr. Frasz.

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