Mabee Eye Clinic’s history began with two brothers from Iowa who both graduated from the University of Iowa with a specialty in eye, ear, nose, and throat. Those two brothers, Dr. Oscar Judson Mabee and Dr. Don Mabee moved to Mitchell, South Dakota in 1925. They established an eye, ear, nose, and throat practice in the Medical Arts Building located on the main street in Mitchell.
Dr. Oscar and his wife, Hilda, had two children. The oldest, Judson Oscar Mabee graduated from medical school at the University of South Dakota. He completed his ophthalmology training at the Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in New York City and returned to Mitchell with his wife, Marilyn (Boots), in 1961 to practice ophthalmology in the downtown medical facility with his father.
Dr. Judd Mabee soon realized the need for quality eye care in Mitchell, a town of nearly 15,000, and a large, rural surrounding area of 80,000. The demands for eye care made it necessary to move to a larger facility. A new clinic was constructed at 305 N. Sanborn in 1969. Mabee Eye Clinic included a reception area, business office, an optical shop and lab, five exam rooms, space for two offices, and storage.
The Mabee Eye Clinic became incorporated with Dr. Oscar J. Mabee, Dr. Judson 0. Mabee, and Dr. Harvard Lewis as stockholders in 1968. Dr. Judson Mabee became the sole stockholder in 1972. The Mabee Eye Clinic building included space that was rented as a dental practice until 1996. When the dentist occupying the space left the building to construct his own clinic, Mabee Eye Clinic remodeled the vacated space thus expanding the reception area, the optical department, and lab.
Dr. Judson Mabee raised the level of ophthalmological care in Mitchell and the surrounding area. During his thirty-plus-year career, he performed many strabismus and cataract surgeries. He performed the first corneal transplant in the state of South Dakota as well as performing retinal detachment surgeries during his initial years in practice.
The Mabee physicians were well regarded for their caring and precise medical services. Needing assistance in providing complete eye care to his patients, Dr. Judson Mabee arranged with Gene Liudahl, O.D. to join the practice as an independent contractor at the Mabee Eye Clinic. Dr. Liudahl came to the Clinic in 1967. Dr. Oscar Mabee retired in 1982.
The demand for quality eye care and surgical procedures prompted Dr. Mabee to recruit an additional, board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Ray T. Birkenkamp, a graduate of Southern Illinois University Medical School, completed his ophthalmology training at St. Louis University Hospitals in 1983. He and his wife, Kris, moved to Mitchell at that time and Dr. Birkenkamp became a partner of Dr. Mabee’s.
Dr. Birkenkamp performed the first laser eye surgery in Mitchell as well as the first phacoemulsification cataract surgery. He performed over 10,000 cataract surgeries during his thirty-plus years of providing ophthalmological surgical care to the Mitchell area.
The Mabee Eye Clinic continued to expand and in the 1980s had established satellite offices in Parkston, Chamberlain, and Huron. With the added demands, Dr. Gene Liudahl recruited Dr. Gregg Bleeker to assist in inpatient care. Dr. Gregg Bleeker was a 1983 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry and had spent his first 3 years practicing optometry at Malmstrom Air Force Base Hospital near Great Falls, Montana. Dr. Gregg Bleeker joined the Mabee Clinic in October 1986 – the opening weekend of pheasant hunting season. Dr. Liudahl and Dr. Bleeker established an additional satellite office in July 1987 in Salem – which had provided complete eye care to the community of Salem, SD until March 2020.
Dr. Judson Mabee retired from ophthalmology and the Mabee Eye Clinic in December 1996. He and his wife Marilyn(Boots) were killed in a tragic floatplane accident in Canada in June 1997.
As Dr. Gene Liudahl neared retirement, Dr. Bleeker recruited Dr. Glen Nydam to join the Mabee Eye Clinic in June 2000. Dr. Nydam was a 1996 graduate of Southern California College of Optometry and had spent his first 4 years practicing optometry at Ft. Leonard Wood Army Hospital in Missouri. Dr. Gene Liudahl then retired from optometry and the Mabee Eye Clinic in August of 2000 and soon moved to Rapid City.
Dr. Ray Birkenkamp retired from ophthalmology and the Mabee Eye Clinic in September 2017.
In May 2018, Dr. Nicholas J. Wenande, O.D., F.A.A.O., joined the Mabee Eye Clinic.