Woodland Eye Clinic says goodbye to Dr. Landis, welcomes Dr. Stebel

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Dr. Bruce Landis

Dr. Bruce Stebel

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Bruce Stebel to Elkader and to the Woodland Eye Clinic. In some ways, he is a younger version of me.” 

With that, Dr. Bruce Landis ends his 39-year career as Elkader’s go-to optometrist. It was a career filled with fond memories of patients and people who will be missed, as well as one that survived the 1980s farm crisis, the flood of 2008, the selling of the office to the Woodland Eye Clinic and the modernization and computerization of the medical practice of eye care. 

“I saw Elkader as a place I could concentrate on three things: community, family and optometry, [and] in meeting Dr. Stebel, I sensed he was looking for the same and he would make a great addition to the community,” Landis continued.  

In retirement, Landis seeks to spend more time with family, when COVID-19 stops interfering with everyday life. For certain, his children, grandchildren and siblings would also appreciate the time together. 

“I am thankful for the opportunity I had over the past 39 years. I have had wonderful patients and staff that I miss,” he said.

But as change brings the end of one career, it begins the start of another. Dr. Bruce Stebel was born in Fayetteville, Ark., and after spending five years in rural Oregon, decided it was time to move back to the Midwest to “put down some deep roots and be closer to family.” 

Stebel came looking not just for a career, but a place—a place where you can still “walk downtown, grab some ice cream, pick up a gift for your family and take a leisurely stroll.” That place just happened to be Elkader.

“I felt a strong connection when I came to visit. Dr. Landis showed me around and I knew this would be a great town for me and my family to call home,” Stebel said. 

Stebel’s journey to optometry started as a child, after suffering his own vision impairment issues. Being unable to read the board in school or his brother’s old Batman comics, the moment he could see again left an unforgettable memory. That memory enables him to connect with his patients with simple, but sincere, empathy. 

“I became an eye doctor for a couple of reasons. First, I feel my patients’ pain [and] I’m a big believer in always helping your neighbor [and] taking care of those around you. It feels wonderful providing vision,” Stebel said. 

Of course, Stebel also acknowledges there are still things beyond his control or ability, something that makes the usually rewarding job difficult.

“It is hard being in a situation where we have to tell our patients that they can expect visual decline, or even vision loss,” he said. This is when being “terribly near-sighted” and being able to relate to patients on a personal level can provide comfort in a complicated situation. 

Another challenge for Stebel, though less daunting, is replacing Dr. Landis. 

“It feels a bit intimidating and, in my opinion, it should. Being held to such a high standard that Dr. Landis provided keeps me growing as a doctor and a person,” Stebel confessed. 

The big shoes to fill are still large, but became a bit smaller and more manageable after it became clear both doctors are cut from the same cloth.

“I just knew after speaking with Dr. Landis about his perspective of patient care here in Elkader for 30-plus years, I knew I could carry that torch in the same manner,” Stebel said. 

This is an outlook shared by fellow colleagues, who admitted Stebel will have his work cut out for him to follow in Landis’ footsteps. But they also acknowledged how Stebel “fits the mold of Dr. Landis,” and shares his ability to “put patients at ease.” 

Those patients, according to Stebel, appear to be at ease. “Patients have told me that Dr. Landis and I are quite similar,” he said. 

The transition, then, has been seamless, and the clinic will continue to build on the excellent work and superb care Landis devoted his life to providing. That care stressed a family-oriented approach because the patients in a small, rural place like Elkader are almost always your neighbors. 

“We care about what we do. We hold ourselves to a very high standard. We aren’t perfect, or the cheapest, but our work is always quality, careful and thorough…we want to provide the best for our friends, family and neighbors,” Stebel said.  

He is humbled by the opportunity. 

“I’d just like to say it’s truly wonderful calling Elkader home and the Woodland Eye Clinic my career. This is home [and] I will be here any time anyone needs help,” Stebel said. 

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