Happy Anni-fur-sary: Eye Care for Animals, largest veterinary ophthalmology specialty group, celebrates 40 years of animal eye care

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Eye Care for Animals, the world's largest veterinary ophthalmology specialty group, celebrates their 40th anniversary.

“This is a truly incredible milestone, and one that is even bigger than I’d dreamed.”

Team members and pet parents of Eye Care for Animals (ECFA), which provides veterinary ophthalmology services at 39 clinics across the country , are celebrating the 40th anniversary of its inception.

Specialists at ECFA treat more than 55,000 animals a year. ECFA is located in 16 states, including six practices in Arizona, and has helped more than 1 million animals since opening their doors.

“This is a truly incredible milestone, and one that is even bigger than I’d dreamed,” said Reuben Merideth, DVM, DACVO and founder of Eye Care for Animals. “I started ECFA with the goal to be the number one provider of veterinary ophthalmology services on the west coast. Every client care representative, technician, resident and doctor rose to the occasion, and we were able to exceed my wildest expectations.”

A graduate of the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Merideth started ECFA on August 15, 1981, the year he became board-certified as a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. ECFA’s first clinic opened in Tucson, Arizona, closely followed by clinics in Mesa, Arizona and Overland Park, Kansas. After success in his first ventures, Merideth began addressing the need for veterinary ophthalmology services in other markets.

Dedicated to helping future veterinary professionals, Merideth, who has contributed to more than 30 veterinary journals and publications, began ECFA’s residency training program in 1982. To date, the program has helped train 75 veterinarians to become veterinary ophthalmologists. Today, ECFA is the largest, non-university affiliated ophthalmology residency program in the world.

In 1995, Merideth partnered with Paul Barrett, DVM, DACVO to continue expanding the business. They both recall fondly mapping out their expansion plan in-flight on a Southwest Airlines cocktail napkin. The napkin included a map of the United States with all the hubs identified by city, and throughout the conversation, the two partners marked their future locations in Utah, Arizona and California, followed by New Mexico, Texas and Illinois.

For the next decade ECFA continued its rapid growth and by 2006, the board and ownership group was complete. The world’s largest veterinarian-owned ophthalmology group would include a leadership team of Merideth, Barrett, Julius Brinkis, DVM, DACVO, Randall Scagliotti, DVM, MS, DACVO and Nicole MacLaren, DVM, DACVO. By 2016, ECFA had grown to 54 practices in 16 states thanks in part to their world-class residency program that provided doctor-trained ophthalmologists to support their growth and expansion.

In October of 2017, ECFA joined Pathway Vet Alliance to lead Pathway’s Ophthalmology Division, a new sector of the growing veterinary practice ownership and management company based out of Austin, Texas.

“We found a strong partner in Pathway when we joined forces nearly four years ago,” said Rustin Sturgeon, DVM, DACVO, ECFA trained and national medical director of ophthalmology at Pathway Vet Alliance. “To celebrate 40 years of animal care in an industry with a competitive, ever-changing landscape shows how proficient and impactful ECFA has been in the industry.”

Due to commitments and continued concerns over COVID-19 surges, plans for a scheduled in-person doctor celebration will take place this October in Scottsdale, Arizona.

ECFA currently has representation in 16 states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Those who wish to support veterinary ophthalmology and celebrate ECFA’s anniversary are asked to donate to the Vision for Animals Foundation founded by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists at https://www.visionforanimals.org.

About Eye Care for Animals
The Eye Care for Animals group is dedicated to providing the finest in veterinary ophthalmology services. Our staff of board certified ophthalmologists and clinical specialists provide the highest level of care, education, and understanding to our clients, their pets, and our referring veterinarians. Our ophthalmology services treat more than 25,000 patients a year. In addition, we provide consultation services at local Zoos and various wildlife rehabilitation organizations.

About Pathway Vet Alliance
Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Austin, Texas, Pathway Vet Alliance has grown from a single veterinary practice to over 400 locations across the U.S. Pathway's mission is to create the world’s most trusted, innovative, and connected pet health ecosystem - one that always nurtures people and pets through meaningful relationships and exceptional care. Pathway looks for practices and doctors seeking opportunities to grow and provides personalized management support to help them focus on providing the best possible care to their patients. Pathway has differentiated itself by focusing on the unique needs of each practice and partnering with the local team to implement their vision and work with their values. Learn more at https://pathwayvets.com/.

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Justin Clements
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