DeAnn Fitzgerald has been bringing better vision to others for more than 35 years.
After graduating from Pacific University College of Optometry in 1984, Fitzgerald moved from Oregon to Cedar Rapids and began working with Pearle Vision. In 2003, she opened her own practice, Dr. D.M. Fitzgerald and Associates.
Today, she runs the busy primary care clinic where she provides comprehensive eye exams and treats vision diseases and disorders.
Over the years, she has expanded the resources and programs available to her patients to include concussion management, low vision aids, multi-systems therapy and massage therapy.
“I’m so fortunate I found what I absolutely love to do,” she said. “It’s a powerful thing when people are able to see and read again. It gives them independence.”
To better serve the community, Fitzgerald opened two additional clinics, Cedar Rapids Vision in Motion, which provides occupational therapy, vision skills rehabilitation and other services to children and adults with visual processing dysfunction, and Active Evolution Studio, which offers high-performance vision training to athletes, brain injury patients and others wanting to improve their eye-hand coordination and reaction speed.
Her work has helped to facilitate thousands of baseline testings for concussion in the local community and implement a baseline screening program for young athletes participating in Metro Youth Football.
Fitzgerald’s interest in sports vision performance and concussion management stems from her own background in competitive sports.
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“I owe it all to a woman named Rosemary Porter, who started a softball program for girls in Centerville,” she said. “That’s what got me into optometry school.”
After attending Luther College in Decorah, where she played softball, Fitzgerald earned a scholarship to pitch for the Pacific University softball team.
“I was known as Nolan Ryan in shorts,” she said. “I also was the third person from the team to get into optometry school.”
While she pursued her degree, she and her softball team advanced to the national playoffs two years in a row.
Outside of school, she taught pitching and batting clinics and was an umpire for high school softball tournaments. Later, she played semiprofessional softball.
She said her background as an athlete paved the way to her career, it also gave her skills that she has used in her practice.
“Playing competitive sports taught me camaraderie and relationship-building skills,” she said. “In 1984, when I first started out and was trying to understand the profession, I realized it was all about team building.
“Now, 35 years later, I’ve worked very hard and built a great team.”
Fitzgerald’s efforts to help people maintain and improve their vision are global in scope.
In 2006, she founded Spanda Inc., a not-for-profit organization that provides eye care and other health care services to people throughout the world. Through its international program, Eye Care Kenya, the organization established Cheboiywa Clinic to provide vision, dental, maternity and preventive health services in Kenya.
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The organization locally raises and distributes funds for services to uninsured or underinsured families.
In addition to her other activities, Fitzgerald is a member of several professional organizations, serves as board vice president for the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, speaks at conferences around the nation and keeps abreast of the latest eye care technology to provide state-of-the-art patient care.
“I’m passionate about the profession I’m in,” she said. “It comes down to the power of vision. The eyes lead and the body follows.”
Business 380 is spotlighting HER magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.
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