Blaine Eye Clinic co-founder Dr. Lynn A. Sulerud celebrated 40 years of service after retiring late last month.
Sulerud, who currently lives in Cambridge, grew up in a small farm in northwestern Minnesota in the town of Fertile.
When a guidance counselor at Fertile Beltrami High School asked Sulerud what he wanted to be when he grew up, Sulerud said he wanted to go into a medical field but didn’t know which one.
Shortly thereafter, Sulerud needed an eye exam and became impressed by optometry.
“I thought optometry looked like a nice clean profession, and there was a high demand for eye care people, so I went in that direction based on that,” he said.
After graduating high school, Sulerud studied pre-optometry at Concordia College in Moorhead. He received his Bachelor of Science and his Doctorate of Optometry from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.
After graduating, Sulerud also received extended training in the treatment and management of eye disease from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.
Sulerud worked briefly as an associate at a private practice in Cambridge. He also did part-time work in Mora, St. Cloud and Forest Lake.
In 1979, he co-founded the Blaine Eye Clinic with another doctor at the Pioneer Village Mall, which was located where Cub Foods now sits off Central Avenue.
A few years later, Sulerud bought out the other owner and became the sole owner of the Blaine Eye Clinic.
“It was the right move,” he said. “I love being in control and making decisions for myself and the clinic.”
The Blaine Eye Clinic left the Pioneer Village Mall in 1996 and moved to another location near Carol’s Restaurant on Aberdeen Street in Blaine until 2008. The clinic is currently at 12170 Aberdeen St. NE, Blaine.
“Each time along the way we’ve needed to expand for more space and more exam rooms because the business grew significantly,” Sulerud said.
“We’ve been lucky that people appreciate what we do,” he said. “It feels very rewarding to see this clinic grow.”
The Blaine Eye Clinic currently has six doctors and 40 staff members.
Despite working in Blaine, Sulerud lives in Cambridge with his wife, Valerie. Together they have three children: Breann, Nate and Mindy.
The Blaine Eye Clinic quickly became a family business. Valerie previously worked part time as a receptionist, and their children would help out with various projects, such as mailing appointment reminder cards.
Now Nate Sulerud has been working as a clinic administrator for the Blaine Eye Clinic for 13 years.
“I’ve learned so much about my dad since he retired,” Nate Sulerud said. “I didn’t realize how many people he has touched over the years. Many of his patients have been seeing him since the clinic started in 1979. That’s pretty impressive that he has developed such strong relationships over the years that his patients want to continuously come back and see him.”
Lynn Sulerud said he doesn’t know how many patients he has treated but believes it’s in the thousands.
Sulerud’s daughter, Dr. Breann Forliti, recently bought her father’s share in the clinic, which she co-owns with Dr. Georgiann Jensen.
“The clinic today is a testament to how hard my dad worked and how dedicated he was to this clinic,” Forliti said. “He created a brand where he genuinely cares for people and developed a level of service that you can’t find anywhere else. All of the doctors here have incorporated his mission to our own patients, and that’s what sets us a part. It’s all thanks to him.”
Sulerud said his philosophy with patients has always been, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
He said he had a very specific style as a doctor and worked to keep his patients constantly informed. Sulerud said he took this style from a primary care doctor he had while in optometry school.
“To me, understanding what’s going on is a big thing,” Sulerud said. “That’s why I always try to explain to patients what’s is going on and why we’re doing things. Therefore we get a lot of better compliance on the treatment.”
“I get to see a lot of my dad’s patients over the years, and he has done such a careful job educating patients and making them feel like family,” Forliti said. “He does a great job giving patients a thorough explanation so they know what was going on and what to do. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and he shares that with his staff and patients.”
“You’re not just another number to my dad, where you’re in and out the door and then billed,” Nate Sulerud said. “He values the relationships and the experiences he makes with his patients.”
Optician Mike Stack, who has worked at the clinic 20 years, said Lynn Sulerud’s work philosophies have also extended to the clinic staff.
“Dr. Sulerud has been Mr. Calm and Cool and my mentor and my rock for 20 years,” Stack said. “He brings a personalized touch to his care. He never rushes anyone or an exam. He wants everyone to have that personal touch ... This clinic is a family.”
During his optometry career, Sulerud served as chairman of the Third Party Committee of the Minnesota Optometric Association and on the State Fair Health Fair Committee. Sulerud and his family also took part in a Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity mission to Jamaica where he examined eyes and distributed glasses to the underprivileged. He has been active in the Jaycees and the Cambridge-Isanti Hockey Association as an arena board member and is a member of the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce.
As of July 31, Sulerud is officially retired from the Blaine Eye Clinic. He says he plans to spend more time with his five grandchildren. He also wants to do more golfing, traveling, hunting and enjoying time up north on his recreational land where he has been building trails and restoring wildlife.
“These past 40 years have been absolutely great,” he said.