Healthy Hall: Gainesville Eye

by Gillan Ritchie
close up of a hazel eye

Gainesville Eye Associates has been providing knowledge and care for patients in the Gainesville community and surrounding areas since 1982. The practice is a multispecialty ophthalmology practice founded by Stephen J. Farkas, M.D. and Jack M. Chapman, M.D. The staff at the practice treat each patient with a personalized approach to support their vision needs over time. The practice’s reputation depends on staff expertise and outstanding customer service support, and because of its prestige, there are now clinics throughout Northwestern Georgia and Western North Carolina. Gainesville Eye Associates
has primary offices in Gainesville, Braselton, and Cornelia, and satellite locations in Blairsville, Clayton, Toccoa, Hiawassee, Ga., and the North Carolina communities, Franklin and Hayesville.

The staff members of Gainesville Eye Associates take pride in ensuring that each patient receives compassion, integrity, and empathy during their visits. There are four employees at the practice that have been there more than 20 years, and Gainesville Eye Associates would like to recognize those employees.


Karen Pope is a certified ophthalmic technician, MIPS administrator, and inventory/supply manager, and she has been with the practice for 25 years. Her day-to-day responsibilities include:

• Preparing the patients to see the physicians by completing medical histories;
• Performing numerous tests and refractions on patients; and
• Dilating patients

Pope also ensures that the practice meets the MIPS measurements to support CMS/Medicare/ Medicaid. She oversees the ordering, stocking, and repairing of equipment and medications for the practice’s primary and satellite locations.

What’s her favorite part about working at Gainesville Eye Associates?

I love meeting the patients and getting to know them better but most of all, helping them to see better. You would be surprised at the friendships you develop over the years with these patients and their families. … I enjoy working with our staff and continuing friendships when they have left or retired. It is like working with your family.

Karen Pope

When Pope isn’t caring for patients, she enjoys beach vacations with her daughter, son, and their families, traveling, attending baseball games, and fondue night on Christmas Eve.


Michelle Shelnut has been with the practice for 25 years, and she is a certified ophthalmic assistant. Shelnut loves providing eye care through examinations before patients meet with the physicians. COVID-19 has hit the healthcare industry hard over the last two years, and Gainesville Eye Associates, like many other practices, have felt the effects of the pandemic.

We are trying to play catchup with seeing our patients that missed appointments over the past two years [due to COVID-19].

Michelle Shelnut

Shelnut enjoys spending time with her family and attending baseball games in her free time. She also hikes in Gainesville with her German Shepherd.


Dyann McGarry, a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) technician, has been with Gainesville Eye Associates for 35 years. McGarry is responsible for:

• Taking care of patients following cataract surgery, and
• Getting paperwork ready for the next surgery day(s).

McGarry loves working at the practice because of coworkers and patients.

[I enjoy] beach vacations, seeing my grandchildren, hiking and boating [when I am not at work].

Dyann McGarry


Connie Blackburn has been with Gainesville Eye Associates for 35 years as a pre-operative technician. Her responsibilities at the practice include getting the patients ready for surgery and getting paperwork ready for the next surgery day(s).

Blackburn’s favorite part of her job is working with the patients.

[I love] my interaction with the patients … talking to them about the outcome of their surgery.”

Connie Blackburn

To keep her patients safe during COVID-19, Blackburn works hard to make sure that the facility is sanitary so the patients can have surgery.

Outside of her job, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and taking beach vacations.

This article was originally published in Healthy Hall in February 2022.

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