It may sound crazy to leave Honolulu, Hawaii, but Iris Matsukado, OD ’92, did just that for optometry school. “They encourage us to go to the mainland,” she explains, “or at least go away from home for a couple of years to experience life elsewhere.” The Illinois College of Optometry was her first choice. In time, her experiences at ICO propelled Dr. Matsukado from Hawaii to locations and jobs all over the United States… including her dojo!
“I actually liked the weather,” she says about Chicago. “I liked the season changes. I loved having the tree turn bright red right outside my window.” Dr. Matsukado lived in the Residential Complex, and found it the perfect way to explore the city. “We went out at least once a week,” she remembers. “Whether it was just walking downtown or going to a museum or sporting event, there was always something to do.”
ICO was an exciting place to live, but also proved to be the ideal learning environment. “I wanted to do clinic work,” says Dr. Matsukado. “I wanted to see patients. I didn’t want to just sit and do research.” The Illinois Eye Institute provided complex, satisfying cases. “The patients are so varied there. When you have that patient you can help when other people couldn’t, it makes you feel really good.”
While finishing up a post-grad residency at ICO, Dr. Matsukado received a phone call. A colleague in Florida wanted her to do vision therapy with the Toronto Blue Jays. She had become a baseball fan in Chicago, (Go, Sox!) and jumped at the opportunity. Dr. Matsukado still recalls her parents back in Hawaii. “My folks kept saying, ‘You’re moving further and further away from home!’”
Her time with the Blue Jays was unique and rewarding. However, Dr. Matsukado knew that her ICO OD could open many more doors. She turned to commercial optometry- LensCrafters, Sears, Pearle Vision, and Target. “I think the nice part about commercial optometry is not having to worry about location,” Dr. Matsukado says. “You know corporate is not going to plop their optical down somewhere that is not going to make money.”
I think the biggest thing ICO did for me was prepare me for different patient experiences… I can walk into any office, take a minute to look at the equipment, and say, ‘OK!’
While working at a LensCrafters in Largo, Dr. Matsukado was approached by her Regional Manager. He offered her the location’s lease. “I learned there that you can actually run a commercial practice like a private practice,” Dr. Matsukado says. She began acquiring more leases. “At one point, I actually held five!”
Dr. Matsukado thanks ICO for teaching her time management, expectation setting, and clinical mastery. While managing five leases, she always felt like a competent leader. “I think the biggest thing ICO did for me was prepare me for different patient experiences,” she says. “I can walk into any office, take a minute to look at the equipment, and say, ‘OK!’” Of course, in those rare moments when she had a question, Dr. Matsukado had ICO colleagues to rely on.
One of those colleagues was Sam Teske, OD ’01. When she wanted family time, Dr. Matsukado downsized with his help. She now holds a single lease and practices privately at Eye Doctors of New Tampa with Dr. Teske. “We actually didn’t realize that we were both ICO graduates,” she says, “just that our reputations were very good. We trust each other’s treatments.”
Scaling back has given Dr. Matsukado room for family and fitness. Her primary source for both is karate. “Karate keeps me sane,” she says. “That’s where all our friends are.” Her entire family trains at the same dojo. Her children meet their friends there after school, and she spars with a group affectionately called ‘The Moms of Mayhem.’
“That’s our time,” says Dr. Matsukado. “We’re on the national team, so we do travel around. That’s time just for us… We all get together, we talk together, and just have family time.”
Dr. Matsukado keeps a mental map of her journey from Hawaii: “From ICO to sports vision, the sports vision practice to commercial practice, to now private practice.” Having journeyed a long way, she still says, “I would definitely pick ICO again. That was a great experience, with great teachers, great facilities, and a lot of things to do around town.”
Sometimes, a Mom of Mayhem just has to leave the islands.