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Animal Ophthalmology Installed in Asheville 

Area residents will no longer have to travel to Greenville, SC to get ophthalmic surgery for their pets now that Stephanie Bell, DVM, DACVO, has joined the staff at REACH Emergency and Specialty Animal Hospital. Dr. Bell can do the surgery right in the Asheville area.

Dr. Bell joined REACH almost by chance. She had finished her residency at the University of California – Davis, and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. She was practicing in Texas, but missed her native North Carolina. She had grown up in Rutherfordton and wanted to come back to the area. She knew of REACH, and figured she would give them a call to see if they might discuss adding a veterinary ophthalmologist to the staff. Her call was transferred to Dr. Randy Wetzel, the head man, and, Dr. Bell reports, they hit it off so well they talked for about an hour. After a visit and further interviews, she agreed to move back to North Carolina, and did it.

Dr. Bell had graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, and then graduated with Phi Zeta honors from the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She claims she will treat the pets of Duke fans with all her skill and talents, but that has yet to be demonstrated. Since coming to REACH in September she has been spending her time getting to know the staff and equipping the facility with the latest in ophthalmological goodies.

One of those goodies is an OpmiVisuSeries_S7 operating microscope. Dr. Bell says it took a whole lot of practice and coordination to be able to use it. The operating surgeon has to synchronize foot pedals and hand controls while peering into a microscope, and still needs a second person to help run the machine. “It’s like trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time,” she said.  A cataract machine has also been added to the REACH collection of tools to improve/correct the vision of pets.

Dr. Bell decided to specialize in veterinary ophthalmology because it is fascinating and challenging by itself, and it is also useful in diagnosing many other ailments. As she put it, “The eye is the window to the body and soul.”

An avid music fan, Dr. Bell is most inspired by Waylon Jennings.  She was on the equestrian team at Chapel Hill and still enjoys riding, as well as running.  But she is temporarily sidelined from both following back surgery. When her doctor gives her permission, or perhaps before, she will saddle up her handsome off-the-track horse named Wyatt P. Colton. In the meantime, she enjoys spending time with her Golden Retriever June Carter, her Lab/pit/heeler/street dog Beaucephus Williams, her long-haired dachshund Stoney Earle, and her cat Lucinda Williams, presumably no biological relation to Beaucephus.

Horses are of particular interest to Dr. Bell on a professional as well as a personal level. She plans to include equine ophthalmology in her practice. She also plans to continue her research into Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU), which she explains is an auto-immune generated inflammation of the eye.

Dr. Bell admits that, sadly, some retinal diseases of various species can’t be cured with the current state of veterinary ophthalmology. But then she reports, happily, that there are procedures to keep the suffering animals comfortable. She plans to travel to equine specialty hospitals to examine her horse patients, and perform subsequent necessary surgery.


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