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About Ketchikan Eye Care Center

The leading provider of quality vision care products and personalized optometric services in Ketchikan.

HISTORY OF THE PRACTICE

Ketchikan Eye Care Center (KECC) takes pride in the long history of consistent quality eye care provided to residents of and visitors to Southern Southeast Alaska by our former and current optometrists.

OUR CURRENT DOCTORS

Rick D. Swearingen, O.D.

Born in Jamestown, North Dakota on December 22, 1951. His family moved to Sitka, Alaska in 1953 and then to Juneau, Alaska in 1959 where he graduated from Juneau-Douglas high school in 1970. Dr. Swearingen then attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon from 1970 to 1976. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1974 and his Doctor of Optometry degree from Pacific University College of Optometry in 1976. He began practice in Ketchikan with E.E. Smith, O.D. at the Ketchikan Vision Clinic in September of 1976. He purchased the Ketchikan Vision Clinic from E.E. Smith, O.D. in January 1985. Dr. Swearingen has an expertise in family optometry and practice management. He is particularly interested in eye care financial analysis and accounting.

Erik D. Christianson, O.D.

Born in Missoula, Montana on December 4, 1959. Raised in Western Montana and graduated from high school in the town of Dillon in Southwest Montana. Completed undergraduate studies at Montana State University and Concordia College (Minnesota). Received Doctor of Optometry degree from Pacific University College of Optometry in 1986. Practiced in Eagle River, Alaska as an associate with Eagle River Vision Center in 1986-87. Practiced in Point Barrow, Alaska from 1987-1990. Purchased the practice of E.L. Craig, O.D. and moved to Ketchikan in 1990. Dr. Christianson is the pathology and vision therapy expert at Ketchikan Eye Care Center. He also enjoys practice management, but is better at managing the people than the numbers. He is a good compliment to Dr. Swearingen’s numbers expertise.

ROOTS

The roots of KECC go back to the one of the earliest eye care practices in Alaska. KECC as it is currently known came from a merger in 1997 of two established Ketchikan optometry practices into one. These two separate practices were Alpine Vision Center/Erik D. Christianson, O.D. and Ketchikan Vision Clinic/Rick D. Swearingen, O.D.

Prior to the merger in 1997 Erik D. Christianson, O.D. practiced at 348 Main Street in the downtown core of Ketchikan. Dr. Christianson purchased this practice from the estate of the late Ed Craig, O.D. in 1990. He practiced optometry in Ketchikan since the middle 1950’s. Dr. Craig purchased the practice of Charles Martin Carlson, O.D. Dr. Carlson was one of the first optometry license holders in Alaska and practiced in Ketchikan in the 1930’s and 40’s.

After purchase of the practice on Main Street from Dr. Craig in 1990 Dr. Christianson named it Alpine Vision Center. The office was located in Ketchikan’s original Catholic church complex across from the police department. The property that housed Alpine Vision Center was purchased from the city soon after Dr. Christianson’s departure in 1997 and is now a parking lot and soon to be a new library.

Rick D. Swearingen owned and practiced at the Ketchikan Vision Clinic at 410 Mission Street also in the downtown core of Ketchikan. Dr. Swearingen purchased Ketchikan Vision Clinic from E.E. Smith O.D. in 1985. Doctor Smith had practiced optometry in Ketchikan since the early 1950’s. Ketchikan Vision Clinic was physically located “across the street from the movie theater”. It was in the Alaska Pacific Bank building. Now that Ketchikan has become a cruise destination this space is valuable to merchants who ply their trade to cruisers in the summer.

CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS AND COMPETITION DRIVE THE CREATION OF KECC

During their many years in solo practice doctors Ed Craig and E.E. Smith were competitors. At this same time Ketchikan was in the heyday of the logging and fishing industries. These two strong resource based industries combined with a solid nucleus of government jobs provided a strong, stable economy in Ketchikan. Solo practice was the norm throughout the country in the eye care industry. Two strong solo practices provided a nice choice for Ketchikan patients and the collegial professional competition between the doctors assured quality care.

The late 80’s and early 90’s were a period of rapid technological changes in the eye care field. Due to advances in micro-circuitry and computerization specialized equipment was being developed to measure and monitor changes to eye health. Doctors of optometry were expanding their treatment privileges from glasses, to glasses and contact lenses, and finally to glasses, contact lenses, and treatment of eye disease. This necessitated the need to use more monetary resources on the purchase of equipment. More space was necessary to use the equipment properly. At the same time commercial eye care was becoming popular in the lower 48 and the amount of money being paid for eye exams was shrinking. Contact lenses that fetched $300- 600 per patient were now only worth $100-400. Making a living and keeping up with technology were becoming difficult for the solo practitioner.

Downtown Ketchikan was also changing. It was changing from a center for services to a center for tourism. Anytime of year and particularly in the summer months parking and traffic congestion were real problems. The overall Ketchikan economy was also changing. Due to outside pressures the logging industry and fishing industry were becoming unstable. Competition from a commercial eye care chain further eroded the economic outlook for 2 solo practices.

THE NEED TO CHANGE IS ADDRESSED

Dr. Christianson and Dr. Swearingen began meeting in early 1996 to craft a plan that would allow their practices to remain healthy and still provide commitment to technology and quality of service. As 1996 progressed the plan to consolidate the practices into a partnership and construct a new office building on Carlanna Lake Road took shape. The doctors signed the paperwork for their building loan on the day it was announced that Ketchikan Pulp Company was shutting down…after 35 years as an anchor of the Ketchikan economy.

On April 1, 1997 (no foolin’) the new office building was complete and the doctors moved in. This was the first day of operation of Ketchikan Eye Care Center as we now know it. The initial years were difficult as two separate staffs combined into one and were forced to deal with two different personalities. All it took was a little time and commitment to change. As the years have passed KECC has developed its own reputation for quality and service. Our central location on Carlanna Lake Road is ideal for local folks and persons traveling to our community on the ferry. The hospital is one block away and there are a variety of health care providers offices in a 2-3 block radius.

The commitment to keeping up with technology is evident from the vast array of eye care and office equipment currently at KECC. Multi-doctor practices have their challenges, but one of the advantages is better economies of scale. These economies of scale allow for more efficient operations and an ability to financially keep up with the costs of new technology. We are also proud of the eye care products we provide. KECC offers eye care products and services of unmatched quality at a fair price. KECC is well situated to meet the current and future eye care needs of Southern Southeast Alaska.