Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member Dr. Crystal Mosteller recently accepted the 2020 Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians’ Optometric Physician of the Year award. Fellow optometrists across the state cast their votes, nominating her for the OAOP’s highest annual accolade.
“To be selected by my peers was a huge, huge honor,” Dr. Mosteller said. “I joke that I still don’t quite know why it was me over others because there are many others that do a lot of important things for the association as well. But, I appreciate it, and I am deeply honored. I feel I am just one piece of the puzzle that helps makes Oklahoma optometry the best.”
Dr. Mosteller operates her practice Tuttle Family Eyecare in Tuttle, Oklahoma. She began volunteering with OAOP while in optometry school, and since 2006, has served in its congress committee and executive committee for education as well as became a member of the OAOP Leadership Class of 2008.
The organization stated, “Dr. Mosteller mentors our young (doctors of optometry), is a constant presence at OAOP functions, and is not afraid to hit the campaign trail and knock doors with political candidates who care about protecting great vision health in Oklahoma.”
The close-knit nature of OAOP drives her service and dedication to the organization.
“We care about each other. There is no competition between your neighbors. When you need something, you call your fellow optometrists, and they help you. It’s a wonderful profession. It is not jealousy and fighting for competition. It is truly a family that reaches out and helps each other,” she said.
Before receiving her Doctor of Optometry degree in 2006 from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, she studied biology and chemistry at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. CPN tribal scholarships assisted Dr. Mosteller throughout her educational pursuits, especially during optometry school when she was unable to work due to her large course load and clinicals.
“It started out as a small amount. It was enough to help cover books and stuff, and by the time I finished optometry school, I was also getting the housing assistance, which helped a lot,” Dr. Mosteller said.
STEM-related subjects have always interested Dr. Mosteller. As she began the process of deciding a field of study post high school, her science, technology, engineering and math interests helped narrow her options.
“In high school, I really kind of found my niche in science. I liked sociology and psychology and the human involvement,” she said.
While a senior at Comanche High School, she toured East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, and learned about jobs in the optometric field.
The career appealed to her, and she discussed the opportunity with her guidance counselor.
“I said something about working for an optometrist, and he said, ‘Crystal, if they’ll pay for it, why not be an optometrist?’ And it was the first time anybody had ever put that level of confidence verbally to me. I’d never thought that big for myself, and it made me open my eyes,” Dr. Mosteller explained.
From that conversation, she began her undergraduate studies with the goal of attending optometry school.
Going into practice
The process of opening and operating her own practice began immediately after graduating from NSU. As someone who grew up in rural Comanche, Oklahoma, Dr. Mosteller wanted to live in a community like her hometown but near Oklahoma City. She heard about Tuttle and decided to visit.
“I met with the mayor, who is now (Oklahoma) Senator Lonnie Paxton,” she said. “He was very eager about all the growth, and he was very passionate about the town. He got me excited.
“With a little bit of his help, I was able to get the ball rolling and get in with the bankers, get my (U.S. Small Business Administration) loan. So, once I looked at Tuttle, I never looked anywhere else.”
She purchased a building and began renovations in fall 2006. By spring 2007, Tuttle Family Eyecare opened to the public.
Owning her own practice “is an equal amount of joy and stress, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Dr. Mosteller said.
For the first few years, she also held a part-time contracting position at the Fort Sill Army Base while establishing her practice.
“I am fortunate to be here, and I am glad that I can be of service to the community,” she said.
Dr. Mosteller creates a slower-paced office environment by taking her time with each patient.
“I want to know who my patients are throughout the day. They’re not a number to me — they’re not a set of eyes; they’re people to me.”
Owning Tuttle Family Eyecare for more than 13 years has provided her the opportunity to see the community expand and children grow into young adults.
“I have seen kids in early elementary who have graduated high school and college,” Dr. Mosteller said. “It’s definitely surreal.”
While balancing a small business and parenthood can present challenges for anyone, through the years, Dr. Mosteller has learned one key lesson.
“I have learned how to ask for help. That’s probably one of the most challenging things I think people can do,” she said.
Learn more about Dr. Mosteller and her practice Tuttle Family Eyecare on facebook.com/tuttlefamilyeyecare.