Dr. Farrell C. Tyson grew up along the Texas-Mexico border, straddling the bountiful cultures of two nations. Later, his family moved to Southwest Florida.

Tyson’s eclectic education in diversity was only beginning. As a young ophthalmologist, Tyson served on six medical missions to Mexico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Honduras and Africa. As a respected lecturer, Tyson has spoken at conferences in Turkey, Russia, Dubai, England, Portugal and Spain.

His most significant contribution to diversity, however, is made at his home ophthalmology office in Cape Coral. As the medical director of Cape Coral Eye Center there, 25 percent of the clinic’s 85 employees are from countries including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Columbia, Argentina, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Armenia, Scotland, Germany and Mexico.

Such a heavy percentage of Spanish-speaking employees comes in handy in North Lee County, where the Hispanic population continues to grow. “Any good business is going to relate to its customers,” Tyson says. “And medicine requires the ability to communicate with patients. You can’t do that if the staff can’t interact.”

But Tyson’s devotion to diversity goes beyond mere customer service. He pushes many of his employees toward higher education. Yudith Ruiz, for example, was a surgeon in her native Cuba before immigrating to the United States. Tyson paid for Ruiz to take classes in order to obtain certification as an ophthalmology technician, as she continues to strive for her U.S. medical degree.

“Do you know him? You should know him,” Ruiz says. “He helps us become better. He protects us.”

Adds Tyson: “My employees may resent that I push certification but that’s one thing you can take with you wherever you go.”

The Cape Coral Eye Center also stresses the importance of education by offering high school and college students flexible working hours and, for college students, a tuition-reimbursement program. For high school students, the center offers internships in facilities, public relations, Internet technology, accounting and human resources; to encourage graduation, the Eye Center gives new high school grads a raise in their pay.

For its efforts appealing to the Hispanic community, The Cape Coral Eye Center swept the 2009 Lee County Hispanic Advisory Council business awards. The center was named Business of the Year, Ruiz was named Employee of the Year and Rene Brito was named High School/College Student of the Year.

“It means something because we weren’t out looking for it,” says Tyson. “We thought it was right. This reinforces that.”