A Carthage eye doctor is celebrating a big anniversary as she also prepares for big changes in her practice on the Carthage Square.
Dr. Tamara Soriano put out her shingle at Carthage Eye Care, 130 E. Fourth St., in the middle of the south side of the Square in December, 1992.
Carthage Eye Care will host a reception to celebrate Soriano's 25 years in practice from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, at The Gaderian, upstairs at the Lillian James Salon, 149 E. Third St., on the northeast corner of the Square.
Soriano said she's very appreciative of how Carthage has opened its arms to her practice and she wants to make her anniversary a celebration of the community.
“My intention is that it's not a celebration of what I've done here,” she said in an interview with The Carthage Press. “It's a celebration of what the people here have allowed me to do in their lives to try to help them. It's going to be an ongoing thing throughout the year, we'll have different things throughout the year to try to express my gratitude for being here and supporting me and for welcoming me.”

Soriano grew up near Fresno, California and has been married to Greg Soriano for 32 years. They have two adult children, Kailie, who works with children with developmental or behavioral delays, and Torie, who is also an optometrist and joined her mother's practice earlier this year.
Tami Soriano earned her doctorate of optometry at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and worked in St. Louis for three years, then in Joplin briefly before hanging her shingle on the Carthage Square.
“The things that stand out about Carthage are really the people here, and that's really what this 25th anniversary is about,” Soriano said. “When I moved to Carthage I had heard it was a little bit cliquish and that if you weren't born here you were never going to be part of this community. I have not found it to be that way at all. I'm not exactly sure why people thought that because I didn't experience that.”

One thing highlighted in Soriano's biography on her practice's website, www.carthageeyecare.com, is winning the ATHENA award at the Carthage Chamber of Commerce banquet in 2011.
The ATHENA Award is given to women who have excelled in their business and community.
Soriano said friends had told her her daughter was being honored and that's how they got her to attend.
“I was so excited,” she said. “I thought she had been nominated by her bank, she was working at a bank at the time. My family and friends had me so convinced of that, so when Dr. (Susan) Barlett got up and started talking, I all of a sudden realized, I think she's talking about me? I'm really socially awkward, so those kinds of things are not my thing. I think they knew if I had known, I just wouldn't have gone. That's just how I kind of handle those things.”
Then next year, she had to give a speech honoring the next ATHENA winner, Karen Fenstermacher.
“It was even worse,” Soriano said. “But I will say, the person who was chosen that year, I had heard a lot about her, but I had never met her. It was kind of an honor to be able to honor Karen Fenstermacher. She's a pretty noteworthy person in this community.”

Growing practice
People are full of free advice, and people have given Soriano a fair share of that over the years. And she's succeeded in large part by ignoring it.
One piece of advice she said she received was to never take on a partner.
She ignored that and took on Dr. Michelle Pyle as a partner in 2004.
“ It was probably no less than a thousand times I was told not to get a partner because it's like a marriage,” Soriano said. “But this has been awesome and she's a really good doctor and a really good friend. Then my daughter coming here was really something special.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Torie Soriano graduated with her doctorate in optometry and joined her mother's practice.
“It just nice to see her come into her own,” Tami Soriano said. “She and I have similar personalities and I think we think similarly, so it's been a very easy transition for her and for me. A lot of people have said, oh, don't ever work with your family. But she's been worked here in the summer, she's been here since she was a little kid, and it's never been an issue. When you walk in the door, you put on a different hat and she's a professional and you treat her like a professional. She treats me like her senior colleague and it works out really well.”

Future expansion
Tami Soriano said with three doctors and a growing list of patients, the practice has run out of room.
So, again ignoring advice to move off the Square, maybe to the south part of town, she decided to expand her existing building into her parking area in the back.
“We'll be adding exam rooms, testing rooms, just more space so we can take care of people more efficiently,” Soriano said. “That is our big issue here is we're just really crammed. I did remodel, I remodeled the outside somewhere around five years after I got here, and I remodeled a little bit on the inside a couple of times. Then I did a complete remodel of the inside in 2001 anticipating a new partner, and I never thought we'd run out of room, but even if even if Torie hadn't come, we'd still need more space.”
Soriano said she considered a different location, but decided she couldn't imagine not going to work in the shadow of the iconic Jasper County Courthouse.
“I love this town and I think this Square is what makes this town different,” Soriano said. “We probably bring about 100 people to the Square every day and to pull that away, I feel like that's letting down the people who supported me the last 25 years. Even though they probably would prefer me move south of town, they probably don't come to the Square very often, I want them to come here.”