Last month we shared with you The Beginning: Part I. It was the story of how Dr. Richard Orlando decided to specialize in Ophthalmology. If you didn’t read that one, you can catch up here. The long-awaited Part II is finally here – How Columbus Ophthalmology Associates came to be. Enjoy Dr. Orlando’s story of how Columbus Ophthalmology Associates got started!
“The first time I ever visited Dublin, Ohio was when I was in medical school back in the winter of 1977. After years of playing basketball, I wanted to continue to stay in the game and began to referee middle school and high school games. One of my first assignments was a game in Dublin at the 1909 Building on Bridge Street. I recall driving there from campus and thinking “wow, this is way out in the country” and as I crossed the bridge past the Historic area and pulled into the parking lot, it reminded me of Mayberry. Two lane roads, no street lights, one traffic signal and a school that had a basketball court that doubled as the stage!!! I recall making sure I would not fall off into the audience and prayed no one would get hurt doing the same. That spring one of my classmates told me they were looking for weekend caddies at Muirfield Village Golf Club so again I made the long drive up Riverside Drive, across that same bridge and up a two lane road to the course. There were some new houses being built along the fairways there but for the most part there was not much around. Someone told me the zoo was nearby but all I wanted to do was meet Jack Nicklaus, my golf hero. I caddied there off and on the rest of medical school and did get to see Jack every now and then when he was in town to fix something on the course and prepare for the Memorial Tournament. My hope was that someday I would get to play there. I never imagined that within five years I would establish a medical practice there, build a home and become a member at Muirfield Village and be part of the medical staff for the tournament!!
The road to Dublin was paved by a chance meeting the very first weekend I was on call as an intern at Riverside Methodist Hospital. It was July 4th weekend and a time with minimal hospital staffing. Since I was just out of medical school, I was pretty green at managing critically ill patients. Around 10 pm that night I got a call from the Emergency Department to come and admit a patient in acute kidney failure. After doing all the appropriate blood tests and starting IV’s, I was called to the phone to talk to the patients primary care physician, Dr. Ken Carpenter. We had never met but he explained the situation and that this patient was a farmer that had been a long time patient of his from Dublin. He wanted me to do some special tests and get the patient into the ICU where he would meet me around midnight. I thought, ‘what doctor is coming in at that time when there are plenty of physicians here to help stabilize his patients?’ Well, around 12:30 am, the curtain around the patient’s bed was pulled away and in steps a man that looks like he had just come from the disco. Braided pony tail, funky glasses, full beard, polyester flowered shirt unbuttoned with a gold chain adorned with a dollar gold piece, bell bottoms and leather boots. I recall thinking ‘who is this guy?’ He introduced himself as Dr. Carpenter and he talked to the patient for a long time telling him I was a great young doctor and would take excellent care of him. Then we went into the consultation room where he told me to make sure I stayed with him all night and call him in the morning. I did all he asked and we got the patient through his illness and from that point on Ken Carpenter would call me to go see his patients and he often would come in and meet them and explain their illness, how they were to be treated and what his expectations were of me. After a few months, he asked me what specialty I was going into and when I said ophthalmology he told me that he would check in on me from time to time and wanted me to come out to Dublin because he was going to open a multi-specialty clinic where he needed an eye surgeon. Over the next few years, he would have me come up to his office which was in an old house in the Historic District and we would talk about his plans. One spring day, we drove over to Frantz Road, which at the time was two lanes of country fields. He showed me the plot of land he had purchased where he was going to open The Dublin Medical Mall and it would have a pharmacy, lab, urgent care center, his family practice as well as specialists, including myself. He was also recruiting an OB GYN practice, allergists, dermatology, ENT and urology so that his patients would not have to drive miles to see their sub-specialist. His vision was remarkable as I had no idea how such a facility would work in the middle of nowhere.
In 1983, I completed my training and worked part-time in a downtown practice while Dr. Carpenter completed my office space and opened the Dublin Medical Mall. Our original office had two exam rooms, a waiting room with about ten chairs and a single staff member that answered the phones, checked patients in and out, filed insurance claims and got all the charts ready. On our first day, we saw two patients and that first week we were happy to have a total of twelve new patients. Dr. Carpenter reminded me that I should always be available as he had a large practice and the urgent care center would help grow my patient base over time. There were days I would sit for hours between exams. Slowly but surely he would bring over and introduce me to one of his long time patients that needed an exam or had an eye infection or that wanted cataract surgery. I was open the two Saturday mornings he was and those became very busy days for me. My wife would often work those days to cover the front office and on days we could not find a babysitter, patients had the added benefit of our infant daughter Kristen being behind the desk!! Dr. Carpenter always reminded me that Dublin was going to be a very large suburb and, indeed, his instincts were correct. We now have a full-service hospital and a medical school in our city but I am happy to have been a part of the very first full-service medical center in our great community. He passed away five years ago but his former patients, staff, and long-time Dublin residents still fondly recall his unique and caring relationship with them as well as his importance to the growth of our city. In 1999, we had outgrown our original office and moved to the Bradenton Building but if not for that chance meeting in the ER 20 years prior, Columbus Ophthalmology Associates may have never been founded. Now, I hardly ever leave the city as we have wonderful parks, restaurants, medical care, shopping districts and the club where I caddied nearly 40 years ago. It has been quite a road to where we are now and I am so appreciative of the support of this wonderful community!”