Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 3/28/17
If you step into ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Leitman’s waiting room in East Brunswick, you may spot a couple of magazines in the corner — but you probably won’t need to read them.
That’s because Leitman’s 300-square-foot waiting room is packed with over 1,000 colorful, zany, odd and intriguing objects — including minerals, dolls, clowns, butterflies, shells and photographs.
Leitman’s kaleidoscope of an office recently inspired the Travel Channel’s new show “Weird America” to stop by. On the show, Irish comic Kevin McGahern explores the weirdest sights in the United States.
The show premiered on Saturday, March 18, with a segment on Leitman, who lives in East Brunswick, as well as Margate’s Lucy the Elephant and the 50-pound Mount Olympus burger at the Clinton Station Diner.
“It’s about fun,” said Leitman. “I like the hunt for new things so I go to flea markets almost every weekend looking for colorful and interesting items. I have things from amusement parks, Mardi Gras and more. I like color.”
Leitman’s office was featured in Weird NJ in late 2015, and Leitman believes that this publicity — which before the Travel Channel was the most he has had — was what sparked the Travel Channel’s interest in his office. Although he was disappointed to see that his segment was only a few minutes, Leitman said that he was happy to be featured.
“I like sharing this stuff with people, which is why I have it in my office,” he said.
Leitman, who said that he has the largest mineral collection in the state, started collecting minerals and other items about 40 years ago from flea markets, coastal shops, Manhattan stores, the Franklin Mineral Museum Gem and Mineral Show, and any other destination he has wandered to. Each week, he has brought back one or two items.
“Your eye stops moving when you see danger,” said Leitman. “My eye stops moving when I see color and the exotic. Everything that you see here had to pass the test to get here — my eye stopped and it caught my attention.”
Leitman said that he also has a “garage full of stuff” at home and rotates objects in and out of his office, but he prefers to bring the best items to work so he can share them with the 150,000 patients that he has seen over the last 40 years. However, he wasn’t always on the hunt for the colorful and beautiful.
For about 10 years, Leitman doubled as a New Jersey environmentalist and constantly sought the negative around him to fight for the local environment. One day, his family told him, ‘Everywhere you go, you see what’s wrong’ and he realized that he didn’t want to fight anymore.
“Now that I look for beautiful things. When I close my eyes, I see beauty,” he said.
Plus, when Leitman puts up a new item, he looks forward to seeing what patients have to say about it. Sometimes, they then confide in their ophthalmologist about what they like to collect. However, not everyone has something positive to say — Leitman said about one in 10 people aren’t fans of his elaborate waiting room.
“They say that there’s too much clutter here or that it bothers their hyperactive child,” said Leitman. “But that’s life — you can’t please everyone all of the time.”
Despite the joy that Leitman’s office has brought to his patients, he said that his real achievement has been teaching medical students, including as an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and his recent stint at Rowan University teaching perception and how to be happy.
“I used to be depressed when I was an environmentalist,” said Leitman. “Now, I have learned that you become what you choose to let enter your brain. If you look for beauty, that’s what your brain starts becoming.”
To find out when you can watch the Weird America episode featuring Dr. Leitman on live television, click here.