In the stylish corridors of Tutt Street, philanthropy shapes the future of eye health
Words Natalie Bruckner
Photography Lia Crowe
Nestled in the heart of Kelowna’s picturesque Pandosy Village District, Tutt Street Optometry has been a beacon of exceptional eye care since the late ‘80s. From its humble beginnings, the clinic has blossomed into a cutting-edge hub for optometry services—blending state-of-the-art technology with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. I decided to step inside and see what all the buzz was about in a place where eye care isn’t just a necessity, it’s an art form.
The story of Tutt Street Optometry is a tale of visionaries coming together to redefine eye care in Kelowna. It all started when Dr. John Kemp, a transplant from Ontario, joined forces with the esteemed Dr. Trevor Pickering, an optometrist who had already left an indelible mark on the community in the ‘60s and ‘70s. When Trevor retired, John took the reins and, in the 1980s, embarked on a pioneering journey. He teamed up with optometrist Dr. Grant Goods and ophthalmologist Dr. Frank DeFreitas to create a clinic that would help change the landscape of optometry in British Columbia.
What set Tutt Street Optometry apart in those early days was its holistic approach to eye care. It was the first clinic in BC to integrate all aspects of optometry under one roof. This innovative model made patient care more efficient and comprehensive, setting the stage for the clinic’s future success.
Fast-forward to today, and Tutt Street Optometry boasts a team of nine dedicated optometrists, each with their unique areas of expertise and passions, and it has firmly established itself as an integral part of the community.
As the field of optometry has evolved, so too has Tutt Street Optometry. The clinic embraces cutting-edge technology to provide patients with the most accurate diagnoses and treatments available.
“We do everything from dry eye therapy, myopia control, laser eye surgery co-management and management of digital eye strain, to wide-field analysis of the retina to recognize subtle defects,” explains Dr. Stacey Grimes.
One standout technology is the optical coherence tomography scanner, a non-invasive imaging marvel that captures cross-sectional images of the retina using light waves. This advanced technology aids in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Another invaluable asset is the Optos retinal imaging exam, which employs a scanning laser to capture a wide-field view of the retina in a single shot. This exam offers immediate results, acting as a baseline for monitoring eye health over time. And as Dr. Tricia Rychjohn points out, any new technology that’s adopted is thoroughly researched to ensure it benefits patients and is not just a fad.
While the tech and experience are indeed impressive, I can see that what truly sets Tutt Street Optometry apart is the camaraderie among the optometrists. They collaborate on complex cases, combining decades of experience with the tech-savvy insights of the younger generation.
The Tutt Street team points out that the eyes are not only the windows to the soul but also to one’s overall health. Routine eye exams can uncover a myriad of health issues, often before they become serious. Dr. Katelyn Simair recounts cases where eye exams led to the discovery of diabetes, high blood pressure and even life-threatening conditions like hypertensive crises.
Tricia shares a similar experience, where a seemingly routine exam unveiled atypical peripheral retinal hemorrhages, ultimately leading to the diagnosis of myeloid leukemia. Such stories are not one-offs either, the doctors say.
It becomes clear that the clinic’s commitment to comprehensive eye care extends beyond vision correction. Understanding the important role they play in their community, the team places a strong emphasis on collaboration.
“We maintain close relationships with ophthalmologists and family physicians in the community, ensuring that patients receive prompt and effective care,” says Dr. Samantha Laudinsky.
In fact, their ability to prescribe medications, a practice initiated back in 2009, has been a game-changer—reducing wait times at walk-in clinics and providing immediate relief to patients.
Yet, the Tutt Street doctors’ commitment to making a positive impact doesn’t stop at patient care, and their dedication to giving back is equally impressive. All the doctors and two staff members have been involved in more than 20 eye-care projects across the globe, from Bolivia to India, bringing vision to those in need. The clinic also plays an important role in the Children’s Low Vision Project of BC, ensuring that visually impaired children across the province receive the tools they need to succeed in school and life.
The clinic’s ethos of philanthropy extends to the local community, where they collect donations for the food bank, sponsor sports teams and partner with aid agencies to provide affordable eye care to the less fortunate. They believe in the power of community, and they encourage their patients to join them in their mission to make a positive impact.
In the realm of eyewear, Tutt Street Optometry aims to transform vision correction into a fashionable statement.
“With over 2,000 frames to choose from, selecting the perfect pair of glasses is not just a necessity but an enjoyable experience. Glasses have evolved from functional accessories to fashion statements, and we cater to this transformation with an extensive selection of styles for every budget,” says Dr. Kimberly Bernot.
Eye care has come a long way, and when it comes to the future, the Tutt Street team remains committed to staying at the forefront of the industry. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the clinic’s future is the next generation of optometrists, two of whom—Dr. Katelyn Simair and Dr. Kylie Morhun—were themselves once patients of Tutt Street Optometry.
Ultimately, Tutt Street Optometry aims to be more than just an eye care clinic; its goal is to be a community hub, a centre of innovation and a force for positive change.
“It’s part of the DNA of the practice: to give back and move forward,” says Dr. Dave Grimes. With a rich history, a commitment to cutting-edge technology, a dedication to patient care and a passion for giving back, Tutt Street Optometry helps others see the world more clearly, one eye at a time.