Dr. Eric Suan, founder of the Mid-Atlantic based Retina Care Center, knows exactly when he decided he wanted to be a doctor.
“I had heart surgery when I was four years old,” he recalls, “so I was exposed to physicians early and often in life. That's why I had this interest in going into medicine, and it was not a far stretch to figure out that this is what I was destined to do.”
This focus on fulfilling his mission--on giving back to the world around him through medicine--drives everything Dr. Suan does and why he insists on growing the business the “right” way.
While the inspiration gained from his childhood experience led him to practice medicine, it was a pivotal moment early in his career that convinced him he had made the right decision.
“Very early on in my practice, I had to tend to an emergency call for a woman who’d fallen and hit her eye on a coffee table. She had suffered significant trauma, and we weren’t sure what the outcome would be.
“But within six months, her vision had been restored completely. This meant she could continue being independent -- being able again to drive, and to function entirely autonomously. It was a real ‘a-ha!’ moment for me as to how impactful you can be to someone’s life.”
Circumstances out of his control led Dr. Suan to become a businessman as well as a doctor.
“I had been in practice for seven years in a medical group, first as an employee and then as a partner,” says Suan. “I then moved to a bigger city and joined a practice for one year. That practice kind of fell apart, so I was faced with the choice of joining another practice or hanging up a shingle and starting my own.”
While starting his own business was not originally part of Suan’s life plan nor something he knew much about, he decided to give it a try. And in 1998, the Retina Care Center was born. Now in its twenty-second year, it has 10 locations spread across three states, with five doctors (about to be joined by a sixth), and approximately 45 employees.
“I didn’t know anything about ordering supplies, payroll, insurance and other aspects of the business. I was flying by the seat of my pants for a while. I remember one of the first times I called customer service [for insurance reimbursements], the agent was shocked that it was the doctor himself calling, instead of the billing department or an admin. They took so much time and care walking me through things… probably out of pity!”
As he looks back on his business’s growth trajectory, Suan points to two things he’d change.
“I would have invested in real estate rather than leasing space,” he says. “And I would have relied on managers earlier in the evolution of the business. It’s hard to let go, but to really grow, you have to invest in good people to manage the day to day, and evolve to be more of a thinker.”
Much of Retina Care Center’s early growth was organic. But a couple of years in, Suan realized there was only so much one person could do on their own. He knew that to realize his vision of providing care for more patients, he’d have to bring in a second doctor. That for him was one of the first big steps. Becoming a Capital One customer was another.
“Capital One has been really, really good--we use our Capital One Spark Cash card for everything.
“There are a lot of drugs used to treat patients that are very expensive.” To the tune of approximately $2 million per month for medications that have strict expiration dates and refrigeration needs, which means inventory management is key.
“The Spark Cash card has really helped us. We earn 2 percent cash back and apply it to anything and everything.”
In addition to helping the bottom line and allowing the practice to purchase cutting-edge diagnostic testing and technology, the Capital One Spark Cash card also supports Suan’s dedication to his mission--literally.
Suan devotes a lot of his time to clinical research and is proud to have contributed to final clinical trials for some of the most popular and effective drugs to treat macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
And it is the Spark card’s cash-back benefit that helps fund this research. In fact, Dr. Suan used $100,000 of cash-back rewards to purchase a sophisticated piece of technology that gives a better view of blood flow to the eyes. This has been enormously beneficial both in treating his patients and in conducting research.
“The fact that we are able to be in clinical trial work is a way that we help current and future patients. It’s extremely rewarding,” Suan says.
Suan passes on his fervor for his mission to his employees, ensuring that they know, believe, and are directly immersed operationally in the delivery of Retina Care Center’s mission.
“I believe there are two basic messages,” Suan notes, of his business’ purpose. “One is that our practice is dedicated to the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technology for the treatment of all diseases of the retina and vitreous. And the second is that we strive to do this efficiently on the most personal and caring level for our patients.”
This impacts everyone involved in the delivery of service--from the receptionist, to the technician, to everyone the patient touches, even including billing.
“To hear from people who are losing their vision say how grateful they are for their treatment, it’s a testament to why we do what we do.”