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Local eye doctor is dedicated to public service, locally and abroad

Helping to give the gift of sight to others -- since 1981, Dr. Larry Morrison has been doing just that for the communities of Mahnomen and Detroit Lakes.

For the past several years, he has also been heavily involved in providing eye care services to impoverished nations such as Jamaica and Tanzania, through Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) and the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club.

In early March, he and his wife Joyce will be traveling with a group of 12 other DL Rotarians to Port Antonio, Jamaica, to help establish a permanent eye clinic there, known as the Rotary Avoidable Blindness Clinic (RABC). The DL and Port Antonio Rotary clubs have partnered with VOSH and another volunteer eye care organization, Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE), to establish and equip the new clinic.

The volunteer groups will work with a local physician and his staff. They will bring with them about 4,000 pairs of donated (used) eyeglasses and expect to examine some 1,200 patients.

Most of the money for the equipment was raised by the DL Noon Rotary Club, Morrison notes. "We held a fund raiser last spring to raise funds for the equipment we're taking down there," he says.

And Morrison's public service doesn't end there. For the past decade, he has been a member of the Minnesota State Board of Optometry, the state regulatory board for optometrists. After his tenure with that board ended last year, Morrison was elected in January to the Minnesota Optometric Association's Board of Trustees, where he currently serves as board secretary.

"When you have the ability to help people (to see better) ... it's pretty satisfying," Morrison says, noting that sight is one of the most fundamentally important functions of the human body. "It's right up there with staying alive," he adds.

Morrison, a native of the Waubun-Ogema area who graduated from Waubun High School, holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Moorhead State (now Minnesota State) University, and doctor of optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago.

"I had a roommate (at Moorhead State) that went into optometry the year before I did -- he got me interested in it," Morrison says.

After completing his education, Morrison worked for an eye doctor in Thief River Falls for two years, before purchasing his own eye clinic in Mahnomen in 1981. Six years later, he purchased the practice of the late Dr. Carlson in Detroit Lakes, and opened his own clinic there. Those two clinics are still in operation, under the name Morrison Eye Care.

Two years ago, Dr. Morrison was joined in the practice by his son, Michael, who is also a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry. Larry and Joyce Morrison have three other grown children -- Jessica, a registered nurse; Jason, currently serving with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf; and Stephanie, who is currently attending school, with plans to become an R.N. -- as well as eight grandchildren. (Michael, Jessica and Jason are married; Stephanie is single.)

While the children were growing up, Morrison says, he did not feel comfortable getting involved with VOSH, because of the time and expense involved (any travel expenses incurred for VOSH trips are paid for by the volunteers, he notes).

Since he began working with VOSH, Morrison has made 11 overseas volunteer trips, accompanied by his wife. While he provides eye exams, Joyce helps to sort and fit eyeglasses.

Morrison was first appointed to the Minnesota Board of Optometry by Gov. Arne Carlson, in 1997. Since then, he has been re-appointed by two other governors, Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty.

The Board of Optometry is responsible for licensure of optometrists as well as safeguarding optometric standards for public health. When his term with that board ended in January, he agreed to serve with the MOA Board of Trustees.

The Minnesota Optometric Association has over 500 member doctors of optometry around the state. The MOA is committed to furthering awareness of optometrists as primary eye care or family eye doctors and to bringing about change that positively impacts the MOA member doctors and their patients.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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