While many people get anxious about going to see a doctor, optometrist Paul Lovero hopes his business is different from the rest—one that offers a relaxed, safe space for those in the LGBTQ community.
“It all stems from wanting to help people in a safe space where they can feel like they belong,” Dr. Lovero says. “I think all health professionals should strive to create an inclusive environment. I want my patients to feel relaxed at the end of the day.”
Lovero, who graduated from the University of Houston College of Optometry in 2013, has always had a desire to help those in need. After deciding to get into the eye-care field, the Filipino man quickly realized the best way to help people would be to open his own practice.
“When I was practicing in other places around Texas, it was more conservative,” he says. “I don’t conceal who I am and I am always out and proud, no matter what. I’m an open book, and talk about my husband in general. Unfortunately, it wasn’t received the same way in some places. That was the catalyst for wanting to open a business of my own.”
Lovero did just that, and opened his own practice in 2017 in downtown Houston. But it became apparent early on that the practice, now titled Montrose Eye Care, would work best by being located in the heart of Houston’s gayborhood.
“My husband and I talked about it, and we knew that Montrose is where we wanted to
be because we both identify [as part of] the LGBTQ community,” he says. “I just had a passion to help patients living in this area.”
From the start, Lovero put protocols in place to make sure his business accommodated different types of people. For example, when patients fill out their intake forms, there’s a space where they can write their pronouns.
“You would be surprised how many patients thank me for that,” he says. “As a doctor, you attract patients that reflect who you are. I knew I was going to be seeing LGBTQ patients, but I just didn’t know I would see as many as I do. There are so many options in Houston for eye doctors, so I love that I’ve been able to get the demographic that I was looking to serve.”
Dr. Nancy Lo, an LGBTQ Chinese woman and one of Montrose Eye Care’s other optometrists, also believes the business has a strong connection to the city’s diverse communities due to its welcoming nature and staff.
“I have worked in different places before, and it is sadly not like this everywhere,” she observes. “Even within Houston, when you go to the suburbs, it’s not all inclusive. I had a patient tell me that they didn’t feel comfortable going to [other parts of town] because they weren’t as inclusive. It’s absolutely pertinent that we are able to provide a safe and comfortable place for everybody.”
To further promote his practice’s welcoming atmosphere, Lovero decided to create a special line of glasses that would benefit the Montrose Center.
“Whenever you go into an optometrist’s office, you see the regular brands such as Ray-Ban, Coach, or Versace,” he says. “I wanted to have different collections that were more independent. I wanted more unique designs for glasses. I also wanted to create a collection that was more affordable. That’s where ‘The Montrose Collection’ came in.”
By choosing a manufacturer that was able to control costs, Lovero and his staff can offer the special Montrose-themed glasses to patients at affordable prices. The eyeglass line is also a way to spread Montrose pride, with certain frames named after local streets in the gayborhood.
“I wanted to create something that would benefit the local area and also provide a means for people to be proud of where they live,” he says. “I reached out to the Montrose Center [to offer them] a portion of the proceeds. I was ecstatic when they agreed to partner with me. As of March 2021, we have been able to donate a thousand dollars to the center.”
Going forward, Lovero has plans to become more involved with local gay-friendly professionals in Houston. “I am toying with the idea of starting my own network geared toward LGBTQ doctors in the area. I ultimately think it’s important to get together and make sure other practices are being inclusive for patients, and educating on how to be inclusive.”
At the end of the day, Lo hopes she and Lovero can continue to foster a safe space where people feel welcomed.
“We take pride in actually listening to our patients,” she says. “We really listen to what our patients’ issues are. I do want to have patients leave here with a sense that they got all their questions answered and all their problems resolved. We want them to leave feeling better than when they walked in.”
At a time when many have felt isolated and alone during the pandemic, Lovero wants people to feel like they have a friend.
“I truly feel like my patients are a part of my family,” he says. “I want to get to know my patients on a deeper level. That’s what I truly hope to achieve as a practice owner.”
To learn more about Lovero’s practice, go to montroseeyecarehtx.com.
This article appears in the May 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.