SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (News Release) -- Tom Prater, at a young age, had the virtues of being actively involved in his community and giving back to those in need instilled in him by his mother.
Given Prater's contributions to Springfield, it's safe to say those same virtues followed him into adulthood. Prater previously served on the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education and helped lead the charge in introducing a Hall of Fame for SPS. During his time at Glendale High School, Prater swam long distance, was the photographer for the school newspaper and yearbook and was elected student body president.
When he's not restoring eyesight to patients as an eye surgeon at Mattax Neu Prater Eye Care Center, Prater is a leader in the city he grew up in. "I realized coming back if I was going to live here and work here and make a living here, I kind of was obligated to help improve the community I lived in," he says. When Shawn Askinosie wanted high school students to become involved with Askinosie Chocolate University and travel to Tanzania to learn more about the community and the process of making chocolate, Prater was instrumental in raising the necessary funds and went on the first four trips. In September 2016, he stepped into the role of Zone 2 Councilman after his predecessor resigned. "Since I know people involved in the city government and the community, I felt it'd be pretty easy to step in and help out for a couple years," Prater says.
Prater originally worked alongside his father for seven years after the young doctor completed his residency with Barnes Hospital through the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Since returning home, Prater has been a practicing eye surgeon in Springfield for 31 years.
Back in St. Louis, Prater didn't intend to become an eye surgeon or to practice in Springfield just because his father did, but after taking a medical school class on the subject, he was hooked. He was one of the original founders of Mattax Neu Prater Eye Care Center in 1999, which has expanded to include satellite offices in Branson, Lebanon, Monett and Mountain Grove. "So much of what we do makes a big difference in people's lives because they can see to drive again, see to read again, so it's very rewarding," Prater says about his work. He inherited some of his father's patients and has even performed procedures on a few of his former teachers from Glendale over the years, often trading stories and reminiscing about the high school experience.