Published: Nov 21, 2012 10:44 PM EST
Updated: Nov 22, 2012 3:08 AM EST

NAPLES, Fla - A major eye institute is expanding in Naples and tourism leaders say it's a move that will help bring Collier County closer to becoming a prime medical destination.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute currently has a satellite office in NCH in downtown Naples, but they're planning to expand to a much bigger office just a few miles north on US 41 and Park Shore.

The expansion will not only help Bascom Palmer accommodate more patients, but it will help put Collier County on the medical tourism map.

Irene Mizerowski lives in Michigan six months out of the year, but the rest of her time is spent in Naples. While here, she sees Dr. Stephen Schwartz at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute for her eye care.

"With the nice weather, it does help you heal quicker and makes it much more pleasant," says Mizerowski.

Doctors say Irene is a prime example of medical tourism; someone who comes to Southwest Florida for treatments and recovery.

"I do think the idea of Naples as an ultimate medical destination is an idea that has merit. It's an idea we'd like to be a part of, but it takes time to build something like that," says Dr. Schwartz.

Medical tourism is something Collier County leaders have been pushing for and with the expansion of the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the idea is gaining traction.

"We've already had a great presence for elective eye surgery and this expands it even more, probably would get us to the point where we could be considered the center of excellence for elective eye surgery," says Jack Wert, Collier County Tourism Director.

Bascom Palmer is part of UHealth at the University of Miami and has name recognition nationwide, which is why patients like Irene are here and why she thinks others will come to Naples specifically for treatment.

Mizerowski says, "I think someone would consider coming down here if they have an eye problem, like they would go to Mayo Clinic for cancer treatment."

The new center is expected to be up and running by January 2015. In the meantime Collier County Tourism leaders will look at Ft. Lauderdale and an example of how to promote a medical destination.