With a wide range of services and a patient-centered approach, Refined Eye Care & Eyewear Gallery aims to make a positive impact on the New Braunfels community by providing exceptional care in a welcoming atmosphere. In this Q&A, founder Dr. Audrey Raley discusses her passion for optometry, the challenges of starting her own practice and the importance of routine eye care as a preventive measure.

Why are you passionate about optometry?

Dr. Raley: Vision and good eye health is something that people often take for granted. They tend to forget that their eyes are very connected to the body and the only way that we can actually view blood vessels without an incision is through the eye. In today’s world, we can do this through minimally invasive retinal imaging. It tells a lot about the overall health of a patient.

I also enjoy teaching patients new things about their eyes and helping them see better. Being able to improve quality of life is huge, so I find it extremely rewarding. I feel like every day I get to make people's lives better through their eyes and through their vision. It's a lot of fun.

What was it like to start your own practice?

Dr. Raley: Graduating with a significant amount of student loan debt and then deciding to take out more loans to start my own practice was challenging. However, I aligned myself with individuals that helped me along the way and I had many different mentors in my profession. I even worked with a consulting group, who then asked me to come work with them, so now I get to help other doctors open practices of their own.

What challenges have you encountered while running your practice?

Dr. Raley: We were open one year and three days before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. So that was definitely a difficult challenge in my business. I didn't foresee having to deal with such strange circumstances. And while very scary, at first, now we can all look back and see how much we grew and learned from it. At this stage I'm thankful for having that experience so early on in my business.

What services do you offer at Refined Eye Care & Eyewear Gallery?

Dr. Raley: We offer full-scope primary eye care and comprehensive eye exams. This includes contact lens fittings, including specialty contact lens fittings for patients who may have deformed corneas; high amounts of astigmatism; or have had prior surgeries. We offer a very robust dry eye clinic with minimally invasive eye rejuvenation techniques. We also manage and treat chronic eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and the management of cataracts.

Although we don't perform any major surgeries at my office, my network of surgeons is very wide. We do offer emergency eye visits. When patients have an injury to their eye, pain, sudden vision loss or an infection, we offer the ability for those patients to get into our office within 24 hours. And there's always an emergency line available, which I know my patients appreciate.

How can routine eye exams prevent larger issues later in life?

Dr. Raley: When we uncover an issue during an annual eye exam, we can get ahead of things getting worse and the patient has a better prognosis. They will have better long term eye health because they have done their due diligence. It’s very similar to going to the dentist and having your teeth cleaned so you can uncover cavities and address them before you have to get a root canal.

Can you share a time when you felt like your work was really rewarding?

Dr. Raley: We had a patient come in who had a sudden loss of vision in a spot in his eye. He wasn't quite sure what was happening. We found that he had a mini eye stroke. The scary part was we didn't know exactly why this happened. I sent the patient to the emergency room and they learned about some underlying conditions he had. If we had not sent him to the ER, the possibility for a larger-scale stroke was definitely there. This would have been not only sight-threatening, but life-threatening. I have so many stories like this where we were able to uncover larger diagnoses for patients and that is what makes optometry unique.

What do you want the community to know about Refined Eye Care & Eyewear Gallery?

Dr. Raley: I absolutely love New Braunfels. I want to leave a positive impact on the community and improve the lives of the people that are living here. People really enjoy coming into a doctor's office and being truly cared for, and I feel like we offer that. It's important to me that patients feel at home, they feel cozy, they feel a sense of trust, and they know we're going to do right by them.

Refined Eye Care & Eyewear Gallery is located at 2188 State Hwy 46 West, Ste. 102, New Braunfels. To schedule an appointment at Refined Eye Care and start improving your eye health, visit refinedeyecare.com.

The above story was produced by Mary Katherine Shapiro, a member of Community Impact's Storytelling team, with information solely provided by the local business as part of their "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team. Our integrity promise to our readers is to clearly identify all CI Storytelling posts so they are separate from the content decided upon, researched and written by our journalism department.