With an Eye Toward Optometry

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Three generations of Motobas share a common vision.

From left: Optometrists Kirk, Naomi, Robert and Joel Matoba share a family practice.

The Matoba family has a long history in the field of optometry and with institutions of higher learning in Colorado and Southern California.

The legacy began with Ben Tsutomu Matoba, a Kibei who was incarcerated during World War II at Minidoka, Idaho with his parents. He was allowed to leave the camp to do his undergraduate studies at the University of Denver and went on to the Northern Illinois College of Optometry (now the Illinois College of Optometry).

After earning his Doctor of Optometry degree in 1946, he returned to Denver and opened his solo practice on Larimer Street in 1947 to serve Denver’s Japanese American community.

Robert Matoba remembers being influenced by something his father said: “Optometry is a young profession (chartered in 1900) that has a lot of potential depending on how you wish to practice.”

Dr. Ben T. Matoba, O.D.

This always appealed to the younger Matoba and apparently was an influence that was handed down to his uncle, cousin, brother and children.

Ben’s brother Misao Matoba was in the Military Intelligence Service, and after finishing his tour of duty in occupied Japan, he followed in Ben’s footsteps, attending the University of Denver, but went on to Los Angeles College of Optometry (now Southern California College of Optometry). After finishing in 1953, he opened his own practice in Brighton, Colo. in 1954.

Misao’s son Eric Matoba followed next by attending Colorado State University and going to Southern College of Optometry in Tennessee. Finishing in 1984, Eric joined Misao’s practice. Misao passed in 1989, and Eric in 2016.

Robert’s journey began at the University of Northern Colorado. He then attended the Southern California College of Optometry, where he met his wife Naomi (Yano), who did her undergraduate studies at UCLA and was his classmate. (Naomi’s father, Kiyoshi Yano, served as Japanese editor of The Rafu Shimpo.) Robert and Naomi finished in 1986 and were fortunate enough to practice with Ben for one year before his passing in 1987.

Robert’s specialty practice interest is the treatment and management of glaucoma, and he has gained extensive experience in the management of glaucoma and glaucoma-associated diabetic, hypertensive and early age-related macular degeneration.

Naomi’s specialty practice interest is cornea, tear film pathology, dry eye management, and specialty contact lenses, including those for keratoconus, high astigmatism, and presbyopia. She has gained extensive experience in management and treatment of corneal and anterior segment pathology, with amniotic membrane implantation/management, treats and manages eyelid diseases and contact lens-related corneal complications, and has additional interests in retinal imaging and corneal photography.

Robert’s older brother, Glenn T. Matoba, changed from medicine to optometry and also attended the Southern California College of Optometry, finishing in 1990 and joining Naomi and Robert until 2002, when he decided to leave Colorado and relocated to Bakersfield.

“Naomi and I were a bit puzzled and happy that early on, our two children expressed the desire to carry on the optometric legacy of the Matoba family,” Robert said.

Their older son, Joel Kenji Matoba, followed in his father’s footsteps from University of Northern Colorado to Southern California College of Optometry, finished in 2015, and is currently in his parents’ practice.

Joel’s specialty practice interest is retina and dry macular degeneration management, which he gained extensive experience managing while in training at the Veterans Administration eye clinic. He also does general eye care and contact lens.

Kirk Matoba also attended the University of Northern Colorado but after that wanted to experience the East Coast and attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

“Since Kirk has finished, and is now in the practice, Naomi and I are looking forward to having Joel and Kirk take over what their grandfather started,” Robert said.

Kirk’s specialty area is concussion/neuro-rehabilitation and low vision. He got his clinical training at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, Eye Institute of Philadelphia, and the VA Medical Center of Providence, R.I. As these clinical training sites have significant populations of low-vision and neurological injury patients, he gained experience rehabilitating the ocular manifestations of traumatic brain injuries.

“We feel fortunate to have Kirk in our practice now because we have some traumatic brain injury patients, and many partially sighted patients that suffer from corneal dystrophies, excessive dry eyes, macular degeneration, and glaucoma,” said Robert. “In the past we referred these patients to doctors that practiced this specialty, but found that many times they did not follow up with the referring doctor and we were touched when our patients informed us they wanted to wait for Kirk to finish his training when they found out what his specialty area would be.”

The practice is located at 200 Union Blvd., Suite 415, Lakewood, CO 80228 and can be reached at (303) 988-2777 or www.matobaeyedocs.com.

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