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Our History

History of Wolfe Eye Clinic

The history of Iowa’s Wolfe Eye Clinic is an interesting one. Otis R. Wolfe, M.D., and Frederick L. Wahrer, M.D. founded Wolfe Clinic in Marshalltown in 1919.

This partnership became the foundation for a group practice that would later include Dr. Wolfe, his three sons, and other surgeons who were instrumental in the advancement of eye care. In the early years, the Wolfe family group practice was among the first of its kind to provide comprehensive eye care in a clinic setting.

During the past one hundred years, our physicians have been dedicated to bringing new methods of treating eye conditions that had once been untreatable. Motivated by the needs of our patients, we insist on remaining at the forefront of technology. This commitment dates back to the 1930s when Wolfe Eye Clinic doctors were leaders in developing modern intracapsular surgery that made cataract surgery safer and recovery time more rapid.

As time went on innovations in cataract surgery developed at Wolfe Eye Clinic often became the standard of care nationwide. To date, we have operated on hundreds of thousands of cataract patients, restoring sight and providing a new lease on life for many. These procedures also helped change the course of cataract care throughout the world. Physicians at Wolfe Eye Clinic designed one of the first one-piece plastic lens implants, helping to restore vision more consistently after cataract surgery.

Today, our doctors are known for writing textbooks on advanced cataract surgery techniques and for the advancement of innovations, including topical eyedrop anesthesia for cataract surgery. Our physicians even hold patents on surgical instruments and devices. In 1985 Wolfe Eye Clinic doctors began using laser light to treat glaucoma and today we treat with lasers in all of our offices. When used with computerized diagnostics, lasers have made the treatment of glaucoma even more successful.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and can be difficult to diagnose and control. We have treated glaucoma for over eighty-seven years, and our doctors have written articles on advanced glaucoma care – including surgical treatment during cataract procedures.

Wolfe Eye Clinic physicians are also active in the treatment of retinal disease, and retina specialists are available at each of our twelve main offices throughout Iowa. In 1968, Wolfe Eye Clinic doctors began using the Xenon arc laser to treat previously untreatable retina diseases. Today, advanced procedures such as pneumatic retinopexy (placing an air bubble in the eye to hold the retina in place) and intravitreal injections are reducing the need for traditional surgery and making the restoration of vision for patients with retinal disease more successful than ever before.

In 1984 our surgeons were among the first in Iowa to perform keratorefractive surgery for myopia. And in 1994 we were the first in Iowa to be involved in FDA clinical trials for the excimer laser used during LASIK laser vision correction surgery. With FDA approval of the excimer laser for treatment of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, our surgeons are helping tens of thousands of Iowans determine if they are a good candidate for LASIK and giving them the ability to see more clearly without glasses or contact lenses.

There have been exciting new advances in laser technology that have further improved the accuracy and safety of laser vision correction. For example, LASIK has become an all laser procedure. It still involves two steps—creating the corneal flap and reshaping the corneal bed—but both are now performed with a laser. Wavefront optimized LASIK also emerged. This technology measures and captures unique visual distortions – similar to a “fingerprint” of your visual system. The detailed information is then converted to a map and is very precisely matched to your eye. The map can then be used to guide the laser to create a customized treatment for each individual.

In the early 2000's we recruited a fellowship-trained specialist in pediatric ophthalmology and adult and child strabismus. While Wolfe Eye Clinic physicians have treated pediatric patients throughout the years, a pediatric specialist offers Iowans a higher level of expertise in this area and we went on in 2019 to add two more pediatric ophthalmologists.

Our doctors have also demonstrated a long-range commitment to research by establishing and funding the Wolfe Foundation. The foundation has provided an educational teaching forum for sharing our knowledge with surgeons around the world. It has also yielded numerous scientific papers, surgical textbooks, and scientific breakthroughs. These extraordinary levels of research and continuing education are a reflection of our commitment to excellence – a commitment fueled by the desire to provide the highest level of care for our patients at Wolfe Eye Clinic.

Wolfe Eye Clinic is a recognized diagnostic and surgical center offering the broadest range of professional care in the specialties of ophthalmology and optometry. With nearly 50 physicians and more than 40 locations served throughout Iowa, Wolfe Eye Clinic provides expert eye care and convenience to all Iowans.