Dr. Brad Bodkin  Dr. Ellesse Boiwka
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.—Cold opening an independent practice was not Dr. Brad Bodkin’s first plan. After graduating from the New England College of Optometry, Bodkin, OD, MS, FAAO spent a year working at another practice where, he said, “the idea started to make more sense.” Over the course of two years he built a business plan, and eventually was able to choose and lease a small location. At first, Dr. Bodkin chose the location for The Vision Center at Seaside Farms with expansion in mind. However, his neighbors started to buy land up pretty quickly—after just five years, nine out of the ten outparcels in the same shopping center were bought and developed into small condos. That’s when his wife, Sarah, gave the final push to buy that last remaining piece of land and expand—and five years later, they were able to do just that.

Now, The Vision Center at Seaside Farms is an award-winning practice located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Like many independents, Dr. Bodkin said his focus “is to always put the patient first—every decision we make is based on the patient, their experience with our office, and their perception of us.”

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After 10 years in practice, The Vision Center at Seaside Farms has built a family. Image via The Vision Center at Seaside Farms on  Instagram

Working as an independent, he said, “gives us the freedom to try new things and make changes that we feel will help our patients,” and, at the same time, being a member of Vision Source “helps us to compete as an independent and stay ahead of the curve.” His team, which also includes Ellesse Boiwka, OD, who graduated from Southern College of Optometry, has won at least one “Best Of” award every single year since 2013.

Standing out as an independent means making patients feel appreciated, like they’re part of the practice family. For The Vision Center at Seaside Farms, Dr. Bodkin told VM, “we love to show our patients a good time. We have an event in the spring that is usually frame or sunglasses focused but held at a popular restaurant or brewery nearby. Then we have our main patient appreciation event every fall when we invite our patients to join us on a 2-hour boat cruise around the Charleston Harbor where we just enjoy food, drinks, and live music without trying to sell anything.”

Events like these help independents create relationships that stretch beyond just a clinical environment—creating an experience out of a trip to the eye doctor.

The practice’s new, expanded location in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Image via The Vision Center at Seaside Farms on Facebook. Each Christmas, the practice and patients team up with Toys for Tots. Image via The Vision Center at Seaside Farms on Facebook. The Vision Center at Seaside Farms has been awarded at least one local “Best Of” award every year since 2013. Image via The Vision Center at Seaside Farms on Facebook.

But one of The Vision Center at Seaside Farms’ most outstanding programs has little to do with the patient experience; part of what makes Dr. Bodkin and his team stand out is their Green Initiative. Sustainability is at the forefront of almost everyone’s mind right now, so it makes sense that Dr. Bodkin and his team have also put it at the front of their business practice. With a full page dedicated to the initiative on their website, there’s no question that this is something Dr. Bodkin is dedicated to. As he explained to VM, “Every process we have in the office is designed to reduce our carbon footprint and we try to reuse and recycle as much as we can.”

This dedication stretches from office design (large windows to require less lighting inside, plants to offset carbon outputs, energy-saving insulation, recycled building materials) to patient experience (electronic records and forms, bags made of recycled materials, batch ordering of contacts and frames to cut down on shipping emissions), and touches all areas of practice management.

Heading out to local events and getting involved helps The Vision Center at Seaside Farms become a staple in Mount Pleasant. Image via The Vision Center at Seaside Farms on Facebook.
Dr. Bodkin also selects brands based, in part, on their environmental responsibility—from working with ic! berlin to Maui Jim. They also offer a 20 percent discount on new frames to patients who recycle their old ones through VSP. “Being green is something that I feel strongly about and [I] try to convey that through our office,” Dr. Bodkin said.

In addition, the team at The Vision Center at Seaside Farms gets involved and gives back through their local community. For the past two years, Dr. Bodkin has shaved his head for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation which raises money for children with cancer, and the practice has contributed more than $4,000 in the process. Each Christmas, they team up with Toys for Tots, and throughout the year they consistently donate to silent auctions in support of various charities. Combined, these practices come together to create an independent office that is able to give back to its patients, to people in need, to its community, and to the earth—and, as Dr. Bodkin explained, create “an enhanced patient experience.”