In 1985, young ophthalmologist Claus M. Fichte, M.D., opened his solo practice at 2400 Pine Ave in Niagara Falls. He received a Niagara Falls Community Development loan, which had a stipulation that he had to create seven new jobs. When the doors opened, he was the only doctor working with three employees. Fichte said, "When I opened my practice at 2400 Pine Avenue, I thought that maybe one day we would be successful enough to add another doctor and possibly grow to 15 employees." Today the practice has two offices and more than 74 people on staff, including M.D. partners Michael J. Endl and Thomas R. Elmer, staff ophthalmologist Dr. Richelle Stillwagon, and five doctors of optometry performing onsite LASIK surgery at the Amherst office and laser-cataract surgery at the practice's 6500 Porter Road location, Town of Niagara.
The practice provides full service eye care, with two optical shops, extensive diagnostic testing, surgical counseling, a 24-hour call center, and in-house medical billing team to assist patients.
Staff members also do clinical research studies for the Food and Drug Administration and various ophthalmic companies, as well as publish in textbooks and journals, and present findings at national and international professional eye meetings.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would get this comprehensive," Fichte said. "We are ever grateful to our patients, because our growth came in to response to an ever increasing demand for quality eye services from our patients over the many years."
Among the 74 staff member team is a group of 10 people who have managed to work their way up the ranks, and will be honored next month with a photo wall in the Town of Niagara office. These 10 individuals make up the newly formed "20-Year Club." Everyone in the group has worked for the organization for a minimum of 20 years, some over 25 or 30 years.
When asked about the overall success of the practice, Fichte credited the employees, noting that human dedication and talent is the most valuable resource the practice has. Fichte said, "I have always been a strong believer in the McDonald's corporate philosophy of growing the staff from the bottom up and having them learn every task along the way before being able to effectively run the company. My management style has always been to fully train your people, and once they have their skills encourage them to carry as much 'rope' as they are capable of, in order to motivate and challenge them, so that they will take ownership of their position."
Coordinator of Marketing & Outreach Kathleen A. Otto said, "It is real testament to the organization when you have so many employees here for so many years. ... It speaks volumes about what a good place it is to work when no one leaves."
She added, at Fichte, Endl & Elmer Eyecare, "There are a lot of nice perks to work here."
Employees receive health benefits, 401(k) match, and continuing education credits, among other benefits. The practice also offers employees many team-building events.
For more information on Fichte, Endl & Elmer Eyecare, visit www.fichte.com.
Shown are members of the Fichte Endl & Elmer Eyecare's "20-Year Club." Back row, from left, are Kathleen A. Otto, coordinator of Marketing & Outreach (joined in 1997); Kevin O'Brien, marketing director (1989); Teri Kinney, medical biller (1995); Donna Rae Kania, senior surgical counselor (1986); Joellyn Maurer, billing supervisor (1993) and Barrie Cosimano, front office (1997). Front row, from left, are Kathleen Goodnick, clinical study coordinator (1996); Linda S. Grant, surgical counseling supervisor (1984); Pamela Phillips, office manager (1993); and Linda Shenkle, optometrist (1992).