Zeiter Eye marks 50th anniversary, continues to grow

Central Valley Business Journal, January 2012

By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor

Doing anything for 50 years is noteworthy.

Doing it well, staying abreast of state-of-the-art advances, growing along the way, and leaving behind a legacy and tradition of philanthropy, that’s truly impressive.

“I’m excited about where we’ve been the past 50 years,” said Dr. John Zeiter, CEO of Zeiter Eye Medical Group Inc., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012. “I’m excited about where we’re going.”

With the addition of Joseph Zeiter Jr. this summer, three generations of Zeiters will have taken care of eyes in the Central Valley, building upon the foundation laid by Dr. Henry Zeiter, John’s father, when he opened a downtown Stockton office in 1962.

“Things are awesome,” said John Zeiter of the practice that now has offices in Stockton, Lodi, Manteca, Tracy, and Sonora. “We’re all working hard and we’re all taking care of a lot of eyeballs. … Health care has been one of the fields that have been fairly resilient to the recession.”

While elective procedures may be down, said Zeiter, basic and necessary eye care have allowed Zeiter Eye Medical Group to weather the recession.

But it takes more than just that to keep a business going for 50 years.

“I attribute that to paying attention to patients,” Zeiter said of the practice’s longevity. “You have to listen to their concerns and you can’t ignore the patients’ problems. … We take good care of our patients.

“I think that’s how you stay in business,” said Zeiter. “It’s a people business. You take care of the patients.”

Fast-changing bureaucracy, lower reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal and Medicare services, and the ever increasing cost of doing business have added challenges to providing health care.

“How does that change what we do? It doesn’t. We take care of our patients,” said Zeiter. “I think all of us in our practice are passionate about what we do. … Making someone see again is a pretty satisfying thing. That’s good.”

That passion and dedication is rooted in the elder Zeiter, who was born in the mountains of Lebanon in 1934 and raised in Venezuela and Canada. He eventually graduated from college summa cum laude with degrees in English literature and history. He graduated from medical school four years letter at 23.

He trained in eye surgery at the prestigious Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit and in 1962 relocated to the Hunter Building on Hunter Street in Stockton. His innovations in cataract surgery made him a pioneer in the field.

Two years later he bought a building downtown, said John Zeiter, which was rebuilt after it was damaged by fire. The practice’s business offices and a small clinic remain there, said John Zeiter, as part of his father’s commitment to downtown.

Henry Zeiter is known for his philanthropic contributions to the local arts community and to the eye care of those who might not be able to pay for sight-saving services. That philanthropic effort continues to this day.

“My Dad always had a big heart for the indigent and Medi-Cal patients,” said John Zeiter.

Henry’s nephew, Dr. Joseph Zeiter, joined the practice in 1981 and now is the chief financial officer of the practice. His arrival spurred a growth that has yet to stop. John Zeiter, who joined the practice in 1992, said the growth will continue this year with an expanded surgical center on March Lane next to its offices there and with the arrival of Joseph Zeiter Jr.

“When we bring in Joe’s son, it’ll be great,” said John Zeiter. “I think when Joey gets here in July we’ll have some sort of event to mark the anniversary.”

In addition to regular eye examinations and optical shops, Zeiter Eye Medical Group offers glaucoma prevention and treatment, treatment for diabetic retinopathy, athletic vision solutions, and LASIK, cataracts, and cosmetic surgery, including the availability of BOTOX.

Drs. John Canzano, Richard Wong and Harold Hand, also all board-certified ophthalmologists, all practice at the Zeiter Eye Medical Group offices. Dr. Kimberly Cockerham is the latest full-time addition.

“It’s a family,” said John Zeiter. “We’ve always called our partners, our employees, the Zeiter family.”

He said that even Cockerham, who has worked part-time for the medical group for years and before becoming a full-time member of the staff, shares that feeling. “She kids around that she’s Kim Zeiter Cockerham,” quipped Zeiter. “Everyone treats everyone like family, even our new partners.”

That feeling of family, said John Zeiter, is something that also comes down from his father, Henry.

Visit http://www.zeitereye.com to learn more about Zeiter Eye Medical Group.

Contact the author about this and other stories at kmichaud@cvbizjournal.com.

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