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Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic has 20/20 vision focused on the future

The physician-owned, independent clinic turned adversity into opportunity for growth, improvement

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March 18, 2024

EAU CLAIRE – For more than three decades, the Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic has been helping communities in the region maintain their eye health, to the tune of more than 50,000 patients each year.

Today, the physician-owned, independent clinic features three locations: Eau Claire, Menomonie and Rice Lake – also providing outreach services in the Cumberland, Durand and Black River Falls communities.

It is a member of the Oakleaf Medical Network supporting independent physician practices in West Central Wisconsin and the surrounding communities. 

Administrator Kathy Sipple said that fits well with the clinic’s focus on serving generations of families.

“We strive to keep care local for residents in the communities we serve,” she said.

Bumps along the way

Though the clinic has a long-standing presence in the communities it serves, Sipple said it has had its share of adversity.

The Eau Claire facility (2715 Damon St.) burned down in November 2019, destroying everything.

Sipple said leadership began looking for another location within a day or two of the fire and found a temporary location quickly, however, “the challenges didn’t stop there.”

“We had lost all our equipment (in the fire) – testing equipment, computers, exam chairs, everything,” she said. “But we pushed to get new equipment, and within a few weeks, we were back to seeing patients.”

Determined to return to its previous location because of the strong presence it had in the community, Sipple said they simultaneously began working with Hoeft Construction on a custom facility on the former property.

But then COVID-19 hit. 

“We had started working on it almost immediately, but then COVID started, and everything came to a stop,” she said. “It wasn’t until a year to a year-and-a-half later they picked up where they left off, finalizing plans, developing the site and beginning construction.”

Sipple said building a new facility provided leadership an opportunity to design a space that met its needs – noting they were outgrowing the prior clinic.

“The new facility (offers) double the space of the original building – which led to doubling the number of exam rooms and ability to do testing…,” she said. “Patient flow is much better in the new clinic.”

Other areas of growth

Continuous growth within the clinic, Sipple said, isn’t limited to the physical.

She said Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic regularly invests in new equipment, technologies and FDA-approved procedures and treatments to best serve patients.

An innovative mindset, Sipple said, means the team is always looking at new opportunities to best serve its patients, whether they are there for a regular eye exam or something more advanced.

The team includes six ophthalmologists and four optometrists – with the newest joining the practice in September – and another 52 team members.

Sipple said optometrists provide routine eye exams, care for numerous eye diseases and conditions and guide patients to the most up-to-date contact lenses.

She said one optometrist on the team specializes in low-vision exams for individuals with severe vision loss and can recommend devices to assist in their daily routines – while another optometrist fits individuals with specialty lenses necessary for specific eye diseases.

The team’s ophthalmologists, Sipple said, provide care in the areas of cataract surgery, macular degeneration, glaucoma disease, eyelid surgery and other eye diseases and conditions.

In addition, they provide laser correction surgery if an individual is a good candidate. 

“We are a multi-specialty clinic and a full-service provider,” she said. “If an optometrist discovers something a little suspicious during an exam, he or she can refer the patient for an appointment with the ophthalmologist or even do a hallway consult to ask what he or she recommends. It’s nice to have the full scope of care onsite.”

Ever-evolving technology, advancements

During her last 17 years with the clinic, Sipple said she has witnessed significant changes in technology that have delivered more clarity for people with nearsightedness, more comfortable and clear contact lenses and advancement within the laser surgery space. 

“We have people coming out of the procedures saying they’ve never been able to see this clearly,” she said. “It’s exciting to see how far that has come and watch to see where it’s going next.”

Sipple said she remembers when few patients with macular degeneration received injections in their eyes to stifle the disease’s advancement.

Today, she said the clinic delivers about 600 monthly injections, with potentially life-changing benefits.

“It has taken off incredibly for people who want to sustain their lifestyle and not completely lose their eyesight,” she said. “And they’re coming out with better medications to prolong (the benefit of) those injections, so in some cases, they come in every three months instead of every month.”

Putting patients first

Each of the three clinic sites, Sipple said, typically draws patients from about an hour’s radius, and physicians from the Eau Claire site travel to the other locations regularly to see patients.

“We’ve had a presence in all three communities for quite some time, though Eau Claire is our first location and where our main operations are housed,” she said.

The Eau Claire site, Sipple said, is also the only one of the three sites with an optical area staffed by opticians who can help patients choose from more than 700 frames.

Though eyewear options, she said, aren’t the only innovative area within the clinic’s walls – it’s a key reason the clinic is physician-led.

“Being physician-led and owned by three of the ophthalmologists allows us to make decisions quickly, as opposed to going through layers of management,” she said. “A great example of that was after the fire when we made decisions quickly. It’s allowed us to be responsive.”

Putting patients first, Sipple said, is at the heart of that – which she said is evident in reviews and other patient feedback the clinic has received.

“I am the one who sees the Google reviews every day, and I always print them out and post them,” she said. “The continuous theme I hear is patients feel relaxed, have a great encounter with staff from beginning to end, enjoy how friendly the staff is and have good direction (on any next steps) when they leave the appointment.”

Sipple said that includes a focal point on education, which starts in the exam room.

“Education has to be a partnership with the physician, assistants, techs and the patient,” she said. “The exam room is where that begins, with the goal the patient leaves feeling as though they have better insights into what their situation means for them.”

An educational focus and welcoming environment are elements of a positive culture Sipple said starts at the top and flows to all employees.

She said she has three direct reports who are managers and consistently reminds them they are walking examples of the culture.

“I ask them how they encourage cohesiveness, for example, and remind them the team takes their direction from them,” she said. “What you condone, you accept.”

Having experienced hardships along the way hasn’t been easy, but Sipple said the team embraced them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

“Going through what we did, losing everything, allowed us to reflect,” she said. “We used that to make the experience better for the patient and the physician. We serve the majority of people in the Chippewa Valley, and who was going to care for all these people if not us? There’s a purpose and a reason why we’re here.”

For more details on Chippewa Valley Eye Clinic, visit

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