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Corpus Christi EyeSight Healthcare a vision of success

The team at EyeSight Healthcare includes Frances Pieper (front left), Veronica Saavedra, Crystal Proa, Paula Holloway, and (back row) Tammy Gates, and Dr. Robert Gates. Photo by Jane Kathleen Gregorio

A love story, a series of opportunities, and a leap of faith all led to the formation of EyeSight Healthcare, PLLC, in Corpus Christi. North Dallas-area natives Dr. Robert Gates and his wife, Tammy, will celebrate the optometry practice’s second anniversary in the Coastal Bend in October.

Gates’s sister, Chel, and her husband, optometrist Scott McGregor, played an integral part in the story. Tammy and Robert were introduced by Chel in 2000 because she thought “‘you two would make a good match,’” Gates said.

Two years after they met, Tammy and Robert were married. Soon after, Gates’s brother-in-law, Scott, came to them with a proposal.

McGregor, a contact lens specialist, had his own optometry practice and was looking for someone to help him expand, so he asked Gates if he would be willing to return to school to become an optometrist then join his practice.

“When asked, Tammy and I prayed about it, and we excitedly agreed to go for it,” Gates said.

From there, Gates went on to earn his degree at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee, which was McGregor’s alma mater. After Gates graduated and returned to Plano to work, McGregor unexpectedly passed away, but, amazingly, another blessing presented itself when Gates was contacted by an ophthalmologist in Corpus Christi about an opportunity in the Coastal Bend.

After flying to Corpus Christi, Robert and Tammy Gates found they truly liked the area, he and decided to pursue similar interests here, later taking a position as an independent doctor of optometry with T. Campen and Associates.

“We were in a position to move anywhere we wanted, and there was something about the Coastal Bend area that resonated with us,” Tammy Gates said. “We loved the community atmosphere, being near the water and the palm trees. We quickly sold our house in Plano with little trouble.”

After relocating to Corpus Christi, the couple established themselves in the community, finding a church home — New Life Church (“No Perfect People Allowed”) — and discovering new contacts. For a few years, Robert Gates continued his work in independent contracting as an optometrist until opportunity knocked again.

“While I was on assignment in Odessa, a colleague of mine in Corpus Christi contacted me and told me about an opening for an optometrist next door to an optical store in La Palmera mall,” Gates said. “The optometrist who previously occupied that location relocated, leaving the space available for an interested practitioner. Tammy and I prayed about it, and we felt prompted to take advantage of the opportunity.”

According to Tammy, the opportunity was a real blessing as having their own practice was a dream fulfilled.

“Even if we had stayed in Plano, our vision was to someday build a practice of our own,” she said. “This opportunity helped us achieve our vision.”

The first step in building their own practice was creating a name that reflected the kind of service the practice would provide.

“Most practices use the doctor’s own name, but I wanted to have a company name, a brand that we could build on,” Dr. Gates said. “Comprehensive examinations include care of my patient’s vision and visual health as seen through examination of the anterior and posterior segment of the eye. In addition, I specialize in glaucoma and search for indicators of more serious health matters that contribute to eye problems, like diabetes or hypertension. Bearing this in mind, we created our company name, EyeSight Healthcare, PLLC.”

For Tammy, having a recognizable logo and brand were equally important.

“I wanted our logo to reflect the flowing palm trees of Corpus Christi in a fun way, so we came up with a cartoon palm tree with large googly eyes, and we affectionately named him Dr. McTree,” she said, adding that local artists helped design the chalk rendition.

In October 2016, EyeSight Healthcare opened its doors to the public at La Palmera. The next step was to find talented employees.

“I’m blessed to have a great staff, which mostly came from references from other doctors,” Dr. Gates said. “In fact, when I was still working as an independent optometrist, I told one of my staff members that if I ever opened my own practice, I would love for her to work with me, and now, she does.”

That team member is Frances Pieper, who was willing to leave her previous job to help the Gates family build their practice.

“What I love most about working at EyeSight Healthcare is the atmosphere,” Pieper said. “The Gateses have always made me feel appreciated and valued. I’m so glad to be part of the ESH team. We are a friendly group who genuinely care about each other and our patients.”As the facilities at their flagship office in La Palmera mall were renovated by John and Kim Benavidez of Total Homes, marketing for the new business also got underway. Tammy Gates expressed her gratitude for the Corpus Christi community that has helped them build their medical practice.

The family atmosphere created by the Gates family can be felt among the employees as well as the patients they serve.

“I love serving our patients,” said Crystal Proa, receptionist and technician. “Seeing them have a great experience with us is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”

Care for patients extends from the Texas spa-themed waiting room into the exam rooms, where Gates takes his time with each patient, answering their questions and explaining his findings.

“The patients don’t feel rushed like other doctors have made them feel in the past,” staff member Paula Holloway said. “Because of this, patients often refer many of their family members and friends to us.”

In addition, patients at EyeSight Healthcare enjoy some of the latest technology with comprehensive eye care. That includes the Oculus Visual Field and fully automated pretest equipment such as the Optos, a type of retinal photograph called an Optomap that enables identification of retinal variations and problems and can track any changes in the retina.

“It gives us a baseline of the health of the optic nerve, macula, and the retina without needing to dilate the patient,” Dr. Gates said. “We can use this information to monitor eye health and function. Because of this tool, we are able to better identify conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, retinal detachments, and many other retinal problems, allowing us to refer patients to specialists for treatment when needed.”

The couple have also set up both short- and long-term plans for their practice. In the short term, the goal is to build the patient base to support an additional doctor for the two offices in Corpus Christi. EyeSight Healthcare’s first office, the flagship store, is located on the lower level in La Palmera mall. The second EyeSight Healthcare office is located at Everhart and South Padre Island Drive. Both offices are adjacent to Visionworks. As of now, each office is open three days a week, and Dr. Gates alternates between the two.

In the long term, the plan is to grow the practice in both size and scope of work. Future endeavors include enhancing state-of-the-art equipment in both current offices and perhaps adding more practice locations in the Coastal Bend area.

“Our motto is ‘Your vision matters!’, Dr. Gates said. “Patients can expect that and more at EyeSight Healthcare because serving their needs is our priority.”

EyeSight Healthcare, PLLC has two locations to serve patients:

La Palmera mall at 5488 South Padre Island Drive, #1308, (361) 985-0478;

and at 4747 South Padre Island Drive, #102, at Everhart, (361) 814-8095. For more information, visit eyesighthealthcarecc.com.

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