Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation awarded three grants of $50,000 to small businesses in Nome in October 2021. One of them is Last Frontier Eye Care, a new optometry practice that opened in February 2021.
Doctors Kamey Kapp and Marcy O’Neil own and operate Last Frontier. Although the practice is new, both Kapp and O’Neil have worked in western Alaska for years.
“I have been here since 2008, serving the people of the region ever since. 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 in the area. We really wanted to focus on our patients and provide them with care in a way that we knew would benefit them the most,” Kapp said.
Although Last Frontier Eye Care is based in Nome, it does not just provide care to Nome residents.
“We also have a philanthropic side to our private practice, which is a non-profit organization called Tundra Health Initiative. … We go to the villages and also here in Nome and provide free eye care to school-aged children to ensure they have the ability to see clearly and have the best chance of learning visually,” said Kapp.
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 can decide what we can and cannot do as optometrists. And so one of those things that we’ve been developing since 2017 is the ability to use specific lasers in the treatment of glaucoma and post-cataract complications. … We were able to get that certification and approval on our license in September,” Kapp said.
Kapp and O’Neil plan to invest the grant money in new equipment, including the laser unit that this certification allows them to use.
“The other thing we’re working on is getting a light therapy unit that will allow us to better treat dry eye, which is very prevalent in our area,” Kapp said.
They are expected to get both units in 2022, according to Kapp.
The NSEDC selects up to three small businesses to receive Small Business Initiative grants every two years. Kapp believed his and O’Neil’s long experience providing eye care in western Alaska helped them stand out to the NSEDC judges.
“I think reminding the judges that we’re there for the patients, we’re there for the people in the community, and that’s why we’re trying to grow these services, really shows that we’re trying to have an impact on our community. said Kapp.
The next application period for the NSEDC Small Business Initiative grants will open in 2023.