BY SUE WEBBER – CONTRIBUTING WRITER
They are optometrists who treat Minnesota Vikings and Twins players at Hopkins Eye Clinic. The clinic also is working with some University of Minnesota Gophers football players as well.
The clinic, which has been in Hopkins since 1943, recently celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Its connection with athletes began about 30 years ago, when Hersman’s senior partner was serving on the Minnesota State Board of Optometrists.
“He was examining the eyes of students and met Alan Reichow, the son of a former Vikings player,” Hersman said. “Alan Reichow was majoring in sports vision, which was a new field then. He asked if my partner knew anyone with an office they could use occasionally, and was told that our office was two miles from Winter Park.”
Thus began an arrangement whereby football players came to the Hopkins Eye Clinic occasionally for exams.
“We met a lot of the trainers and got to know them,” Hersman said.
After Twins player Kirby Puckett suffered the loss of vision in one eye, the Twins trainers determined that every player’s eyes needed to be checked on a yearly basis, Hersman said. It was then that the Hopkins Clinic started doing annual exams for the baseball players, according to Hersman.
Alan Reichow went on to become Nike’s global director of vision services, and five years ago brought the Hopkins Clinic optometrists over to Winter Park to meet the players, Hersman said. Since then, the clinic has been examining Vikings players’ eyes on a regular basis.
“We’re able to respond right away when they need us,” Hersman said. “We can take care of a lot of things, but for serious injuries, the players see a specialist. We work closely with the teams’ official medical provider.”
Both optometrists say they have enjoyed getting to know the athletes and look forward to their visits.
“Dr. Mjelstad and I can ‘talk the talk’ with the athletes,” Hersman said. “It’s been kind of fun. It’s a privilege.”
Athletic jerseys decorate the walls at the clinic, he said.
The players who visit the office are polite and friendly and “great with the staff,” according to Mjelstad.
“The Vikings are all big specimens, but it’s always ‘yes, sir,’ and ‘no, sir’ when they’re here,” he said. “Baseball players are all different sizes, but they don’t come in with egos. It’s just like they’re your best friend.”
The doctors do attend some of the baseball and football games, according to Mjelstad.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “But we take no credit for the wins or blame when they lose.”
Mjelstad credits the teams’ trainers with closely monitoring their players.
“It’s amazing what they know and how well they’re educated,” Mjelstad said. “They have to be on top of everything. They’re pretty good about knowing when it’s an emergency.”
The clinic’s location at 29 Ninth Ave. N., Hopkins is the place where Hersman’s father was a dentist beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the 1970s.
Hersman, a lifelong Hopkins resident and avid golfer, said he played all kinds of sports growing up. He said he always knew he wanted a career in the medical or health care field.
An optometrist for more than 30 years, Hersman attended St. John’s University and the University of Minnesota and received his bachelor’s and Optometry degrees from Pacific University in Oregon. He was named the Minnesota Optometrist of the Year in 1983. Hersman and his wife, Vicki, have four grown children.
Mjelstad, who joined the practice in 2000, grew up in North Dakota.
He said he always felt called to a career in eye care.
“I worked at an eye clinic when I was in high school, and worked as an optician repairing glasses through college,” Mjelstad said.
Mjelstad attended the University of North Dakota and received his bachelor’s degree in Visual Sciences from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. He received a Doctor of Optometry in 2000 from Pacific University.
A former soccer player, he now has a 10-year-old son who plays baseball. Mjelstad and his wife, Kim, also are the parents of two other children, ages 4 and 2.