Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation awarded three $50,000 grants to small businesses in Nome in October 2021. One of those is Last Frontier Eye Care, a new optometry practice that opened its doors in February 2021.
Doctors Kamey Kapp and Marcy O’Neil own and operate Last Frontier. While the practice is new, Kapp and O’Neil have both worked in Western Alaska for years.
“I’ve been here since 2008, serving people of the region since then. And Dr. Marcy O’Neil has been here since 2010, off-and-on, but full-time since 2018. … We wanted to provide a different level of optometry care to the region. We really wanted to focus on our patients and provide care for them in a way that we knew was most beneficial to them,” Kapp said.
While Last Frontier Eye Care is based in Nome, it doesn’t only provide care for Nome residents.
“We also do have a philanthropic side of our private practice, which is a nonprofit called Tundra Health Initiative. … We go out to the villages and also here in Nome and provide free eye care to school-age children to make sure that they have the ability to see clearly and have the best shot at learning visually,” Kapp said.
The Alaska Board of Examiners in Optometry is unique among U.S. state optometry boards, according to Kapp.
“Alaska is now the only state where the Board of Optometry gets to decide what we can and can’t do as optometrists. And so one of those things that we have expanded since 2017 is the ability to utilize specific lasers in the treatment of glaucoma, and post-cataract complications. … We were able to go get that certification and endorsement on our license in September,” Kapp said.
Kapp and O’Neil intend to invest the grant money into new equipment, including the laser unit which that certification permits them to use.
“The other thing that we’re working on is obtaining a light therapy unit that will allow us to better treat dry eye disease, which is very prevalent in our region,” Kapp said.
They should obtain both units in 2022, according to Kapp.
NSEDC chooses a maximum of three small businesses to receive Small Business Initiative grants every two years. Kapp thought that her and O’Neil’s long experience providing eye care in Western Alaska helped them stand out to the NSEDC judges.
“I think that reminding the judges that we are here for the patients, we’re here for the people of the community, and that’s why we’re trying to develop these services, really shows that we’re trying to make an impact on our community,” Kapp said.
The next application period for NSEDC Small Business Initiative grants will open in 2023.
Image at top: Dr. Marcy O’Neil at the Last Frontier Eye Care office in Nome. Used with permission.