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Midwest beckoned Garth Christenson 20 years ago

Dr. Garth Christenson, stands in front of his office, located in a building he co-owns with two business partners. Christenson is celebrating 20 years in business in Hudson. The River Falls native returned to the Midwest from California to set up his private practice. Photo by Margaret A. Ontl

He was a Midwest boy, a native of River Falls but his family moved a lot -- 15 times during which he attended 11 schools and graduated from Amery High School.

This year Dr. Garth Christenson is celebrating 20 years in business in Hudson. Like his childhood, his educational and professional goals took him on a cross-country journey. After his undergraduate studies were completed at UW-River Falls, it was on to Chicago for his doctor of optometry degree. Then he headed to New York City for an internship. The the West Coast beckoned him with an offer of a residency in Children's Vision at the Southern California College of Optometry where he stayed for five years teaching and doing research. During that time, the highly-driven Christenson earned his Master of Science degree in Education as well.

When it was time for him to consider going into private practice, home called him back.

In 1990 he opened Christenson Vision Center in an office he leased sight unseen in the Keller Building on Coulee Road. The first six months led him to wonder just exactly what he had done, having only seven patients in the first month. In the beginning he was literally a one-man operation.

"I did everything, answer the phone, did the eye exams, dispensed the glasses and locked the door at night," said Christenson. "I think that humble beginning makes you appreciate everything more."

Over the course of the next 20 years, Christenson's practice has expanded and moved to accommodate the growth. Today, CVC is located at 2215 Vine St., in the lower level of a professional building he co-owns with Dentist Tom Kloster and Dean Knudson.

"It has been a blessing to be associated with these folks for 20 years," said Christenson. "Tom's brother was a student of mine in California which is how I connected with him."

Today, Christenson has a staff of 10 and an associate, Dr. Micki Flynn, who joined CVC in 2005.

While Christenson, quietly, speaks of the many blessings he and his family have experienced, it is the notion of being a part of the community, treating multiple generations of family members and giving back to the community through service that are at the heart of his personal celebration.

"I continue to be amazed at the response of the community," sad Christenson. "I treat and deal with whole families -- siblings, parents, grandparents and now the kids of kids I took care of. I am blessed to come to work and serve friends. It is a neat way to interact."

"At optometry school, we teach the students to interact with a person who just happens to have a pair of eyeballs," said Christenson. "I want people to have a stake in their own care. Which is why when 1995, when digital retinal photography became available we showed patients their own photos."

CVC under Christenson's leadership has embraced technological advances with gusto, but the area of care most dear to Christenson is his work with children.

"When I look back on our work in the area of pediatric vision care it is humbling," said Christenson, who is a leader in the field of vision therapy, with clients coming from Green Bay, Iowa and North Dakota.

While the Hudson area has been good for CVC, Christenson is a community booster as well.

"Being able to give back when you benefit from being in a community is important," said Christenson, who is a member of Rotary and a past president of Community Action. "It helps create a sense of community"

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