A vision to innovate

Dr. Noaman Sanni, Center for Sight founder, always seeks to improve care

Dr. Noaman Sanni, founder of the Center for Sight, in his Watertown medispa.

Nearly 15 years ago, Center for Sight’s Dr. Noaman Sanni opened his first office in Watertown. Since, he’s expanded to three counties, growing his practice to six offices across the north country, adding locations in Massena, Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Gouverneur and Lowville. A skilled eye surgeon, his latest innovation is a medispa, a veritable one-stop-shop for cosmetic procedures.

NNYB: You are originally from Pakistan and attended school in the Midwest, what brought you to Northern New York?

SANNI: I graduated from medical school in Pakistan and came to Berkeley, Calif., where my younger brother was going to school and I decided to do my medical equivalency exams and decided to stay here. After I finished exams, I went to New York and did a residency there and then moved to Chicago. I was approached for a position here [in Northern New York], so I said, ‘Let me try Watertown.’ After that I was director of a laser center in Manhattan but then I decided not to follow through with that. I enjoyed the patients here more than I did in New York City. I thought I could offer a lot more here. Even though we were just a one-person practice here, we had five employees and a small office.

NNYB: What keeps you doing business in Northern New York?

SANNI: What I liked here was the patient population and the quality of life. I wanted to enjoy medicine; I didn’t want to be in an environment where you had to fight every day. This was a good environment where patients were appreciative; I could perform and do a lot of surgeries, which is important as you finish your residency that you can be in a place where you can get more experience. It was a good opportunity.

NNYB: You’ve invested a lot in your practices in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties. What about these areas do you find attractive from a business perspective?

SANNI: There was a demand. A lot of patients were coming from there. The problem with ophthalmology is that for the older demographic it’s hard for them to commute. Some people were going to Plattsburgh or Canada for surgeries. In terms of providing service, for example, there was no one doing glaucoma surgery in all of St. Lawrence County.  No one was doing plastics in St. Lawrence County or corneal transplantation. We bring all of that to the area and opened up offices there. We have staff and we built a 15,000-square-foot new building in Ogdensburg. We had three optical stores. I think it all helped the community.

NNYB: How challenging is it for you to recruit and retain quality professional and medical staff?

SANNI: It’s tough. It’s hard to attract good people to Northern New York. We were lucky with Dr. Koloms, she is well trained and likes to work hard. This is a demanding place, especially for younger people and it’s tough to recruit younger people here. They like it but their spouses don’t like it. We hired one of the ophthalmologists early this year. He is in Ogdensburg. We have just signed on another physician who just moved in last week, Dr. William Crane. Then we have about six other full-time optometrists, which are active not only in the community but in the field.

NNYB: How many people do you employ across all of your offices?

SANNI: We have about 75 employees and we’ve grown so much in this location [in Watertown] that we need to expand. We have to be cautious with the current state of health care. Like with any business, you don’t know whether to expand because of where government and the health care bill are going. There are so many variables. We’d like to add surgeries, but you have to be cautious. Ophthalmology and plastics need a lot of investment and equipment.

[Editor’s note: This is a truncated version of this story. For the full version, please see NNY Business in print or subscribe.]