Home Design Inspirations Community Focused

Community Focused

Practice ownership allows OD to build connections in her community

Dr. Gabrielle DrewniakIn February, Gabrielle Drewniak, OD, will celebrate the third anniversary of opening OPT vision studio in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. Her vision to create a community through the practice and get to know her patients has been a success; the business was profitable in its first year, and she is focused on its growth.

2023 was a big year in the office and at home. Dr. Drewniak hired her first full-time staff member as well as an OD to cover weekend hours, and she also took on the new role as mother to her son. She’s back in the office on an almost full-time basis now, and thankful to her family who help provide childcare. “I have a newfound respect for all moms, and when your identity shifts, it’s nice to go back to do something you love with a new focus,” she says. “I’m not just doing this for myself; I’m doing this for him. It will be fun to see how life continues to change after kids—in the best way.”

Dr. Drewniak shared her journey to ownership, how she’s connecting with her patient base and her outlook for the future of OPT vision studio with Women In Optometry.

BUILDING HER BUSINESS

After Dr. Drewniak graduated in 2016 from Illinois College of Optometry, she was living in downtown Chicago and working for Pam Lowe, OD, and in a corporate sublease. She met Dr. Lowe through a childhood friend during her undergraduate studies, and Dr. Drewniak worked in her office as she was deciding to pursue optometry. As an OD, her initial positions offered many valuable experiences, but Dr. Drewniak felt something was missing and began to contemplate her goal of practice ownership. “I wanted to work in a place where there wasn’t as much patient turnover,” she says. “In this urban setting, we didn’t have the continuation of care because patients were often transient and would move out of state or out of the country.”

Dr. Drewniak says that she also felt a strong desire to connect with the large Polish community in Chicago, as the first generation in her family in the U.S. from Poland. “I wanted to help individuals who may not feel comfortable speaking English, and provide them with excellent care” Dr. Drewniak says, adding that she remembers how her family would seek out a Polish dentist and doctors as she was growing up for that feeling of familiarity.

She started her real estate search in late 2019, targeting the Jefferson Park community that’s full of families and a cost-efficient place to purchase office space. The opening she found was in a great location next to the post office, library and nearby a park with tennis courts. Yet when she closed on her space in late March 2020, much of the world was on halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The process of the buildout was long and slow, waiting for permits from the city and the ability to get started. “I took a lot of time to decide what I wanted to do with the space,” she says. Once they were able to get moving, there wasn’t much work to do aside from adding some walls, plumbing, and new electrical lines.

REPRESENTING THE CHICAGO COMMUNITY

The space is 1,700 square feet with a long, narrow layout. It’s typical for the Chicago area, she says, as she occupies a commercial space below three residential condos. Dr. Drewniak chose a style that is clean and modern with a palette of mostly black, white and gray. “My husband, family and friends helped out; it was a labor of love,” she says, from her father-in-law who built the exam room walls to her friend who constructed the front desk.

Behind the front desk is an eye-catching mural that represents the neighborhood where OPT vision studio is located. There are so many interesting elements to check out: the practice logo, Jefferson Park, Thomas Jefferson, a Polish eagle, Mike Ditka (former coach of the Bears), Pope John Paul, the Chicago skyline, the street the office is located on, Michael Jordan, the CTA train and much more. “There’s a little bit of everything, and it’s unique in that the more you look at it, the more you find.”

She’s thankful to the team of artists, Luis Colindres (@colindresart) and Tom Molloy (@tommolloyart), who took her vision and brought it to life in a mural doodle wall, the style of their work. Dr. Drewniak shared some photos to get them started, and they created a rough draft to make sure they were headed in the right direction. But the final masterpiece was a surprise. “They don’t know exactly what it will look like until they get there,” she says. It’s been a worthy investment in the space. “People comment on it every day and say how interesting it is. Our work is 100 percent visual, so it’s fitting for our profession.” It’s even become a helpful tool to calm nervous young patients. “If we need to distract them, we can ask them to find the octopus, or this or that.” (Check out this video of the mural being created!)

COMMITTED FOR THE FUTURE

Looking ahead, Dr. Drewniak plans to dedicate more time to her specialty work in vision therapy and specialty contact lens fittings, as well as investing in the right technology to provide the best care for her patient base. “Any type of health care is challenging because people have specific needs and they need to be heard and addressed. We’re learning how to do that best: to serve them and make money to survive,” Dr. Drewniak says. “We’re keeping our patients first, and we’re growing the staff and training them to maintain good positive relationships with patients.”

And, as she had hoped, her connection with the Polish community is meaningful and fulfilling for both Dr. Drewniak and her patients. “They express their gratitude because previously they saw a doctor who could not speak Polish, and they could not adequately describe their symptoms and needs. I love being able to help them in that way.”

Dr. Drewniak says that it’s been fun to see the practice grow and evolve over the past three years. “I didn’t want a cookie cutter office. I wanted it to be unique and standout and revolve around the community,” she says. “The practice is focused on taking care of patients and building community. We love when people run into each other in the optical and start up a conversation.”

OPT vision studio was bustling at its grand opening event in June 2021, and its still a place where neighborhood friends bump into each other and then stop to chat.

Keep up with OPT vision studio on Instagram @optivisionstudio

See other design stories here.


Would you like to share your remodel/relocation/new practice or office refresh story with WO readers? Email us here.

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Dr. Sara Varghai: Cracking the Hiring Code

Getting the right staff fit is a challenge for many optometrists. When Sara Varghai, OD, of Arlington, Virginia, opened Nova Optique + Eyecare almost...

Women in the News – February 2024

Women In Optometry regularly recognizes the awards and accomplishments of women ODs in the profession and in their communities in the “Women in the News”...

Pretty With a Touch of Pink: Punto Focal

Rochelle Mota, OD, and her husband, Billy Hrncir, were entrepreneurs before they ventured into the business of optometry. They previously opened two businesses—a coffee...

Meet the Student Advisory Board: Ashlee Payne, NECO

By Ashlee Payne, WO Student Advisory Board Member and NECO Student Being a mother of two boys-- 3 and 7 years old--I often hear, “How...