A new optometry practice is due to open soon in Salt Creek Plaza.

Though the practice is new to town, the doctor is not.

Dr. Jessica Wagers, OD, grew up in Brown County, a factor that she said was pivotal in her decision to stay local.

“I didn’t look at anywhere else. I just knew that this was what I was supposed to do,” she said.

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Wagers had been practicing with Dr. Merle Pickel, OD, at the Brown County Eye Care Center since 2009.

Neither optometrist opted to comment on the reason Wagers chose to practice on her own.

The financing company Wagers is working with considers 7,000 as the minimum population needed to support a full-time optometrist, she said. Based on that, Brown County should be able to support two full-time practitioners.

Wagers’ office, next door to Family Dollar, will be just her and an office manager, she said. But though it will be humble in some aspects, Wagers is investing in equipment she believes will make a big difference for patients.

Wagers will have an optical coherence tomography machine, she said. Currently, patients who need an OCT scan have to travel outside the county. The OCT takes cross-section pictures of the retina and can be used to detect swelling or bleeding, as well as monitoring macular degeneration and other conditions.

“I think by keeping them in town, that will help the patients: less travel, less time for the patients, fewer places to visit,” she said.

Wagers acknowledged that it might be possible to make more money as a doctor if she practiced outside the county.

Yet, money is not the priority for her “as long as I can pay my bills and school loans,” she said. Her passion is doing what she loves for people she cares about.

“I really enjoy seeing the people that I’ve known my whole entire life and being able to provide a service for them,” she said.

“And this is so special here — I don’t know how to say it — I feel like there’s a tight-knit community here,” Wagers said. “Being able to stay where I’m from and where I grew up, and keeping those connections with the people that I’ve known — or that my parents have known their whole entire life — makes a difference.”

Wagers does not have a set date for when her practice will officially open. She is waiting for final insurance paperwork to clear, she said.

However, she has already seen positive response from the community, with a number of people messaging her on Facebook to ask about her opening and the types of insurance she will take.

“I would love to be open by the end of the year, but I don’t know if that’s realistic,” she said.

Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.