By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
A few years ago, Erin Moss Curtis walked in to her childhood eye doctor’s office for a routine exam and walked out with better vision of what to do with her life.
Curtis, a Red Bank native, had been teaching biology at Brookdale Community College, but felt the job was just a way station while she figured out what she really wanted to do. She was in a bit of an existential rut, but a therapeutic talk with her doctor, Donald Johnston, pulled her out of it that very day, she said.
“Doctor Johnston said to me, ‘what are you doing here? You should be an optometrist,'” she said. “He was right. It was exactly what I was looking for.”
Johnston made her an offer: “He said, ‘Erin, you’ll always have a job here with me,'” Curtis told redbankgreen.
So she went back to her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a medical program that would allow her to stitch an O.D. (Doctor of Optometry) after her name on her white lab coat. Then she returned to Red Bank where her mother, Pat Moss, is a teacher, and her father, Kevin Moss, serves on the zoning board. But when it was time to start working for Johnston, he changed his initial offer.
He decided to retire and offered the practice to Curtis.
This was at the end of 2007, and until just a couple weeks ago, Curtis kept Johnston’s name on the sign in front of the Victorian building next to Riverview Medical Center in which the practice was based. She wanted to make the transition into the office one that was comfortable for the long-time patients, like herself, and gradually phase in her name as the sole eye doc, she said.
Earlier this month, Curtis rechristened the eye practice Red Bank Family Eye Care, and celebrated with an open house that drew more than 100 friends and family members who drank wine, mingled and did a little ribbon-cutting to mark the start of a new era.
“It’s gratifying. We’ve done a lot of hard work, and it’s satisfying because this is what I’ve always dreamed of, owning my own small business and having my own patients,” she said.
Certainly, making routine visits to Johnston’s East Front Street office as a kid, Curtis didn’t really anticipate that one day she’d be sitting on the opposite side of the phoropter.
“It’s not what I even would have expected,” Moss, 31, said.
But cultivating relationships and helping people see better and even diagnosing more serious health problems through eye exams is as fulfilling as it gets, she said.
“That’s an accomplishment. I did that. I made somebody see better,” she said. “The gratification of that moment keeps me going day to day.”