Clinic Working to Reopen After Doctor's Death


He was tragically killed this week in a skydiving accident, and while prominent ophthalmologist Joel Shugar will be missed, local residents are relieved that his Nature Coast EyeCare Institute in Perry will not be shut down.

The flag is at half staff at Nature Coast EyeCare Institute in Perry, a memorial wreath and flowers sit out front, and the doors are closed to patients after the Memorial Day skydiving death of Dr. Joel Shugar.

Perry resident Don Everett said, "He was a good man; and the center, it brought a lot of people to the community. He had a reputation of being a great doctor and our hopes are for the community as well as the people that are employed down there, they can find a way to keep the place open."

Nature Coast employees say it will be difficult, but the center will go on, with the help of Dr. Maher Fanous of Gainesville. A staff member says Dr. Fanous will assist with immediate care patients twice a week at the facility.

Dr. Shugar opened Nature Coast in 1991 and has performed thousands of free eye surgeries over the years.

One of his former patients, Aline Ward, said, "He was a fine eye doctor. He was good. He's helped a lot of people in this county. They don't know what they're going to miss."

While skydiving in Eloy, Arizona Monday, Dr. Shugar's parachute collapsed after hitting a woman who was also diving. His parachute did not reopen and he fell to his death. He was 49 years old.

Perry resident Bobby Screws said, "I just thought it was a tragic mistake. I just said to myself the Lord works in mysterious ways. I heard he did a lot of free surgeries for people. I'm sure everybody in this community is sure going to miss him."
There are still no specifics on funeral arrangements for Dr. Shugar other than Sunday in Tallahassee. A staff member says plans may be finalized Thursday.

Nature Coast employees say Dr. Fanous is starting on Tuesday. Nature Coast will remain closed to patients until Friday when Dr. Tiffany Torrans, who is one of the regular doctors already working there, returns from out of town.