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Vision Health Eyecare Center has partnered with Columbia Eye Consultants Optometry.

Effective Jan. 1, the partnership pools the resources of two practices that have roughly a century of experience between them without Vision Health forfeiting being an independently-owned practice by getting bought out by a big corporation or retailer.

Doctor of Optometry Donald Vanderfeltz is a fixture in Moniteau County, having worked from offices in California and Tipton for more than 40 years, while the Columbia-based practice Vision Health now partners with has served another area of Mid-Missouri for more than 50 years on its end.

Doctor of Optometry Jacqueline Byrd, who grew up in California, joined the practice about two and a half years ago.

"I grew up in the community, I know the community, I love the community and I want to continue serving the community, which we think we can best do by partnering with this practice," Byrd said.

Byrd said the partnership feels like the right fit, in that Columbia Eye Consultants is equally health optometry-minded in its approach with patients. She said patients shouldn't expect to see any day-to-day changes in how things run in the office, as she and Vanderfeltz will be here in the Moniteau County offices taking care of patients. Hours at both offices will remain the same as well.

Byrd said the partnership does provide benefits that Vision Health wouldn't be able to offer on its own, including extended resources and additional coverage.

"For example, I was out at the end of 2019 on maternity leave for a couple months, and (Columbia's) doctors were able to come down here and see my patients, so those patients weren't left without a doctor and didn't have to wait two or three months to see me," Byrd said.

Vision Health also now counts an opthamologist, or eye surgeon, among its staff because of the partnership, Byrd said, giving people more local options for things like cataract surgery consultations.

And in general, Vanderfeltz said, the partnership allows them to offer patients a bit more complete care, while also allowing for quality optometry to remain a steady local option.

"Our biggest concern was to perpetuate care in Moniteau County," Vanderfeltz said.

Vanderfeltz said he has no plans to retire yet, although he approaches retirement age. He said when the time does eventually comes, the hope would be for the transition to be seamless in providing patients with continuous care of a similar nature to what they see right now.

Vanderfeltz said the main concern was ensuring what is currently a two-person practice wouldn't get dumped solely onto Byrd at any point in the future. With this partnership, it allows Vision Health to have a say as to who comes in to practice in the future, keeping the tenets of its work as a rural practice in mind.

"And that's what we want to portray going to our patients, that we're looking to continue to do what we've done, and obviously continue to improve on what we've done," Vanderfeltz said. "There's always things that we can do, and we think that working with another office, we can add and grow and provide the kind of service that we want to provide and our patients expect."

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