Clinic Spotlight: Grande Prairie and Slave Lake Eye Care

September 27, 2021


In northwestern Alberta lies Grande Prairie, nicknamed the Swan City in honour of the thousands of swans that migrate every year across the nearby plains. But swans aren’t the only ones who come from afar to settle here. Originally from Colombia, Dr. Carolina Navarrete is at the centre of Grande Prairie—both geographically and as an outstanding community member. “Dr. C.” treats her patients and employees with the utmost care while embracing every aspect of the town she now calls home.

Dr. Navarrete began practicing optometry 28 years ago in Bogota, Colombia, where she gained her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of La Salle. In 2002, Dr. Navarrete and her husband, Dr. William Alvarez, a general surgeon in Colombia, came to Canada to start a new life. From 2003 to 2006, Dr. Navarrete held a volunteer position at the University of Waterloo as an Ophthalmic Assistant before being admitted to the International Optometry Bridging program. In 2012, she earned her licence as an optometrist in Canada and relocated to Edmonton, AB for an intern position.

As an immigrant to Canada where everything was new—the language, the weather and the industry— Dr. Navarrete worked hard to make the most of every business opportunity. In 2013, she purchased the Slave Lake clinic from Dr. Dawdy, who had been practicing at that location for 15 years. The following year, she also took over Dr. Dawdy’s Grande Prairie practice. Under the management of Dr. Alvarez, both clinics have grown tremendously and each has been updated with its own lab.

Independent optometry is very important
to Dr. Navarrete. It gives her the freedom
to lead her own business and dedicate
herself to serving her patients in a way
that is honest and fair.

The Grande Prairie clinic also counts on the dedication and support of two key individuals: Susamma (Susie) Varghese and Janine Lopez. Susie practiced as a professional Optometry Doctor in her home country of India for 1.5 years before relocating to Canada. Since arriving, she has acquired her Optometric Assistant and Optician licenses, and aims to be fully certified as a Doctor of Optometry in Canada soon. Susie currently works as the Manager and Senior Optician at Grande Prairie Eye Care.

Janine Lopez worked as a licensed general nurse in her home country of the Philippines for two years before relocating to Canada. Here, she was admitted to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Optical Sciences program to become a licensed Optician. Janine has a year and a half left to complete her program, and she aims to also acquire the Contact Lens Refraction Certificate next.

Staff and patients alike love Dr. Navarrete. Susie, the office manager at Grande Prairie Eye Care, says, “Everyone loves Dr. C. She is so warm and kind to her patients. She explains everything to them, which they very much appreciate.” Some patients wait days for Dr. Navarrete—that’s how beloved she is in this town. And Dr. Navarrete clearly has her community at heart, telling us, “When I see people facing challenges, and they demonstrate drive and determination, I feel a natural willingness to help and truly make a difference in their lives.”

     Grande Prairie Eye Care                                                                                            Slave Lake Eye Care


From the start, Dr. Navarrete looked for a buying group to increase the efficiency of her purchases. She became aware of the OSI Group while attending industry conferences and felt that it would be an excellent choice to help her grow the practice.

David Alvarez is the Marketing and Operations Director and has deeply rooted the clinics’ vision and branding in the spirit of their community. Says David, "We believe strongly in empowering others in the same way as we were empowered as newcomers to Canada.” David spearheads partnerships with many local firms, which has, in turn, helped the business to thrive. Both Grande Prairie and Slave Lake clinics also participated in the Leadership Management course provided by OSI, which has made a huge impact. David tells us that this course has given him many business-related insights resulting in several “light-bulb moments” for him.

The clinics will soon implement Optosys to optimize efficiency and performance even further. Asked if he’s excited about the implementation, David says "YES! I am particularly looking forward to the data analytics features of Optometrics, as they'll help us better understand how to serve our patients, and scale our operations.” Thanks to their dedication and passion for the profession, these community-oriented entrepreneurs have a promising future ahead.

About OSI, Dr. Navarrete says,  
“We always wanted to become a member of a buying group, but I didn’t realize how much great support we would receive after joining. OSI has made us feel seen and understood. Looking back, I wish we had joined earlier!”



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