On May 20, 2020, L. Lothaire Bluth MD passed away after a 4 year battle with cancer, he was 69 years old.
Dr. Bluth was the Founder of Southwestern Eye Center and the first Chairman of the Board for American Vision Partners. He was a true pioneer in the Arizona eye care community.
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Southwest and Mexico have him to thank, either directly or indirectly, for improved and or preserved sight. Not only was he a pioneer in taking eye care to underserved parts of the community, but he was also instrumental in establishing “integrated” eye care within the optometry and ophthalmology fields.
Dr. Bluth pioneered the concept of bringing the doctor to the patient and bringing comprehensive eye care to rural and underserved areas throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.
On a given morning, three to four airplanes take Southwestern Eye Center ophthalmologists and their crews to outlying offices and ambulatory surgery centers where operations for cataracts, retinal disease, glaucoma, and oculoplastics are performed on those who are unable to travel to or afford care in larger metropolitan centers. Offering outpatient surgical procedures locally allows patients to receive superior and more convenient care at a fraction of the cost the same procedures required in a metropolitan or hospital setting.
Dr. Bluth also introduced the concept of “integrated” eye care. He believed that optometry and ophthalmology working together was the way to provide optimal patient care. His philosophy was “together we’re better!” When he realized he may not be able to continue to manage SEC, it was important to him that this philosophy continues and a major factor why he partnered with Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center (BDP) and formed a new organization, American Vision Partners (AVP).
Many ODs today may not realize that having close working relationships with ophthalmology was not always the norm. Dr. Bluth was instrumental in developing this model in AZ. In 1983 he started providing medical and surgical eye care in rural communities often in OD offices and having his team co-manage patients including post-op care. He encountered a lot of pressure from organized ophthalmology for his willingness to work with optometry.
Dr. Bluth was instrumental in getting optometric therapeutic privileges. He made calls at crucial times to key legislators advocating for optometry. Then-Governor Jane D. Hull, whose husband was an MD, called and asked him about the optometry drug bill on her desk. After several minutes of discussion, he told her in spite of what she had heard, there was no reason it shouldn’t move forward. It would help all Arizonans receive better eye care.
To some degree, every OD in Arizona has been affected by this great man: the ability to prescribe medications, having a good working relationship with an ophthalmologist, the ability to co-manage patients, gaining knowledge at a CE meeting, or just having a trusted source to refer medical, surgical patients.
He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on.