Beloved Steamboat optometrist retires after more than 2 decades
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For over two decades, optometrist Dr. Lewis Cutter has been taking care of countless eyes of Steamboat Springs residents young and old.
He will officially retire on Monday, July 13.
Cutter bought Mountain Eyeworks in 1996 from Mike Sullivan, who said Cutter “performed an eye exam unlike anybody else in Steamboat or any place I’d ever been.”
Sullivan described Cutter bringing in “all the best state of the art equipment,” diagnostics techniques and “stuff I’d never heard of.”
And of their clients, Sullivan said, Cutter “made a point to get to know them personally as well as as patients. He and his wife fit Steamboat just perfectly.”
And Sullivan said, when Cutter took over, he happily adopted office mascot, Shamus the parrot. Now, Cutter’s successor, Dr. Erica Musgrove, will adopt the bird as well.
Rob Douglas, who describes himself as “blind as a bat to begin with,” has been a patient of Cutter’s for close to 18 years.
“Time and time again, I was always impressed he took as much time as he needed,” Douglas said. “I never felt rushed. He makes sure everyone feels like they are the most important person at that moment.”
And on the flip side, Douglas noted he never had to wait long to see the doctor.
With severe astigmatism, Douglas said Cutter had to spend considerable time working with his eyes. “He would always ask if I wanted to try something new, and I was always willing.”
And when something wasn’t right, Douglas said Cutter would have him come back in and make sure it was right. Douglas describes him as “very detail-oriented” and working to find just the right type of contacts, which “stopped my vision from deteriorating even more.”
During his last visit, Cutter adjusted one contact, and “my vision has never been clearer,” Douglas said.
Cutter practiced in Denver for about a decade before moving to Steamboat. Business was “lucrative, but not personally satisfactory,” Cutter said. Every weekend, he, his wife and their three kids would head up to the mountains, and one day she said, “Why not just move there?”
The family methodically checked out five different mountain towns.
Cutter found the opportunities for business in Steamboat not only to be good, but “we felt like we were coming home. Steamboat felt great compared to the other towns.”
For two decades, Cutter and his two sons were involved in the local Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts.
Cutter sat on the board of the Colorado Optometric Association and continues to serve on a regulatory board.
For 20 years, Mountain Eyeworks has offered complimentary screening for infants. “There’s so much information in determining underlying risk issues — or if there is a need for intervention,” Cutter said.
The path that led Cutter to optometry was a uniquely calculated one.
In his early 20s, Cutter was working in the Texas oil fields. But during an oil crunch in the early 1980s, he decided it wasn’t going to be a lifelong career for him.
So he took a battery of tests — which included topics like “What do you have in common with successful people?” and “What motivates you?”
The tests pointed to five professions: architect, lawyer, dentist, optometrist and movie producer.
Minus the movie producer, Cutter interviewed successful people in the four other professions.
Only the optometrist answered yes to the question, “If you were my age, would you do it, again?”
Cutter already had a start on a medical background, with a double major in his undergraduate career in biological sciences and food science and nutrition.
He earned his doctorate at the University of Houston and met his wife who was also in Houston earning her PhD in philosophy, with a focus on medical ethics. The couple met waiting tables, and after they finished their degrees, decided to move to Colorado.
“We set up shop and started having babies right away,” Cutter said. The profession turned out to be a perfect fit, he said.
Over the past two decades, Cutter said he’s seen optometry changing rapidly, particularly in treating people beyond just the traditional eye exam and glasses.
Today, optometrists are doing a lot more therapeutic and clinical training, Cutter said, injury repairs and working closely with surgeons. “The model is continually evolving,” he said, and includes a wider medical approach.
Over the years, Cutter significantly expanded the practice. He started with one employee and grew it to eight employees. In 2006, he moved across the parking lot and doubled the size of the former space.
Cutter said he will most miss interacting with patients. He will turn 66 just days after he retires and said the precipitating factor in his decision to retire was a semester at sea with his wife who taught courses aboard a ship. They planned another, which of course has now been postponed. However, “It got me in the mindset it was time to say goodbye,” Cutter said.
In terms of the transition to Musgrove, Cutter calls it a “slam dunk — she’s the future.”
Cutter plans to stay in Steamboat and even has a few new business ideas he is pursuing.
He’s also going to improve his golf game and “stay in one piece” enough to keep skiing.
“I’m going to miss him quite a bit,” said Douglas. “He doesn’t just treat you as a patient. He treats everyone as a friend or family member. He’s just a really good guy. I’m glad to hear he’s staying in the area because he’s a tremendous asset to the community.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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