“To me, the coolest thing about the human eye has got to be just how much it says about the rest of the body,” says ophthalmologist Anthony Agadzi, M.D., perhaps proving the old adage about eyes being the window to your soul. “The fact that you can actually see into it and actually see internal blood vessels and nerves—it’s amazing.”
Agadzi, along with his colleagues Roger Carlson, M.D., and Thomas Cushing, O.D., are the doctors of Redwood Eye Center, Vallejo’s oldest ophthalmology center. When it was founded in 1938 by H. Randall Madeley, M.D., it was the only ophthalmology practice between the Bay Area and Oregon. The practice was then passed down to Carlson and they have since expanded there twice, both times choosing to stay in their hometown of Vallejo.
“Vallejo has always been very good to us,” Office Manager Kathleen Castanho says. “Dr. Carlson has always been very involved with the community of Vallejo and his patients.”
Redwood Eye Center is a well-rounded eye practice. They do comprehensive eye exams, which include dilation, as well as minor surgeries, and cosmetic and therapeutic botox. More complicated surgeries are done by the doctors at nearby hospitals off-site, says Castanho, an optician by trade. They also distribute glasses and contacts and have an in-house lens distribution center, equipped with fancy, shiny, high-end fashionable glasses, as well as others that are designed to be more affordable.
“Lens technology has changed drastically in the last 10 or 15 years,” Castanho says. “You would never see ‘coke bottles’ anymore, unless it was for someone with an extraordinarily high prescription.”
Castanho says there are also easy steps people can take to protect their eyes and avoid getting cataracts or other problems down the line. Diabetes is a big issue too, since it affects the eyes, and is becoming prevalent throughout society.
“Just like you put sunscreen on your skin to help prevent skin cancer, you have to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes,” Castanho says. “It helps to prevent cataract formation.”
For years Carlson headed the practice himself, but then he brought Agadzi on board, and the two have worked together for eight years. To deal with the growing demand for eye care, they have also brought Cushing on board, meaning there’s no end in sight for the center that has thus far survived for more than 75 years. It’s a specialty field, and many who choose it have seen firsthand the ill effects of eye problems.
“I’d say that a lot of ophthalmologists have a personal connection to why they started in this field; I had a family member who was born cross-eyed, and they had to get work done to straighten their eyes out when they were born,” Agadzi says. “So that was my first calling that I’d want to do something like this.”
Since 1938, the field of ophthalmology has expectedly changed quite a bit, beyond the obsolescence of coke-bottle glasses. This has meant that Redwood has had to adapt and change with the times. But, it’s great news for patients, Agadzi said, since the ability for doctors to help people has gotten a boost in past years.
“I’d say a lot of the changes that are happening have to do with refractive correction and being able to give people back not just their distance sight, but also their reading sight, with multi-focal lenses, as well as other treatments,” Agadzi said. “The field has come a long way from where it was before.”
Along those lines, the recovery time for eye surgery is typically a fraction of that for intrusive surgeries on other parts of the body.
“There’s very little downtime for eye surgery in this day and age,” Agadzi said. “People are usually able to get back to work within a day or two.”
Agadzi also said it’s important to remember to get your eyes checked, just like you check other organs, because sometimes people can have afflictions, even when they think they don’t.
“It’s a good idea to get your eyes checked,” Agadzi says. “A lot of eye-diseases basically are asymptomatic, so it may not be something you know that you have.”
When not heading their practice, working in service groups, or spending time with their families, the doctors at Redwood make time to do a significant amount of charity work. Agadzi has done a lot of work with Doctors Without Borders, including a trip to Haiti to treat people suffering from untreated cataracts and experiencing near blindness. Carlson, meanwhile, has made annual trips to Zanibar for more than a decade and has helped form a compound there dedicated to providing regular care to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to any sort of medical care. He’s been instrumental in arranging for doctors in other fields to come along for trips as well, in order to expand the services provided beyond ophthalmology.
“He’s been doing that for years, and never asks for any pats on the back,” Castanho says. “He’s a phenomenal person.” But, there are also plenty of fulfilling ways to help folks back at home too, Castanho says. “It’s really rewarding to be an optician,” she says. “When you have children who have been having trouble seeing and you put glasses on them, and all of a sudden they can see, it’s very rewarding.”
Redwood Eye Center is located at 2852 Redwood Parkway in Vallejo. For more information, call (707) 553-8222 or visit www.redwoodeyecenter.com.
Nate Gartrell grew up in Benicia, studied journalism in college, and has written for a handful of media outlets since age 15. He aspires to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and to hit the trifecta at the horse track.