Winter Haven Eye Clinic Envisions Expansion In Lakeland

The Center for Retina & Macular Disease in Winter Haven, which has made breakthroughs in technology to save and improve sight, plans to expand into a new and larger facility in Lakeland this year.

The company's main office is in Winter Haven on Avenue K SW. But the center, which has more than 60 employees, is actually a network of clinics in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Zephyrhills, Plant City, Clermont and Sebring.

It is working with Lakeland officials on sizing a proposed new building correctly so it can comply with zoning requirements, says Mike Tolentino, M.D., an eye surgeon, partner and the center's director of research.

"We'd like to double the size of our space," Tolentino says.

The center has bought land a few blocks from its existing clinic in Lakeland. It has hired a new surgeon to help with its growth.

It works with patients with conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss in adults.

In macular degeneration, as blood vessels in the eye leak blood and fluid, they damage an area of the eye called the macula. The leakage also scars the retina, which causes vision damage and blindness, primarily in patients over 65.

"At this stage, we are at the mercy of the construction situation," Tolentino says. "In the meantime, we've expanded our office in Lakeland to do clinical studies."

Previously the center was only able to do clinical trial research -- using new technologies for patient treatment -- in Winter Haven.

In the past 2-1/2 years, the center has done 45 clinical trials. At the same time, its patient load has grown. Its Lakeland office is seeing patients from Sarasota and Tampa.

"Lakeland serves a different population," Tolentino says. "Winter Haven is more a suburb of Orlando. We get patients there from Melbourne. Lakeland gets Zephyrhills and Tampa patients. We're trying to provide access to clinical trials."

Writer: Dave Szymanski

Source: Mike Tolentino, M.D., Center for Retina & Macular Disease

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