LONG BEACH — When Dr. Stephanie Mitchell was an intern working at Sea View Optometric Center in Belmont Heights, the aspiring eye doctor saw what she wanted for herself — a boutique business with ties to the community.
For Mitchell, who was raised by two lesbians and lives in Lakewood with her wife, Andrea, and their 6-year-old twins, community is paramount.
Mitchell earned her doctorate degree from Fullerton’s Southern California College of Optometry (later renamed the Marshall B. Ketchum University) and joined Sea View Optometric in early 2015. Eight months later, Mitchell took over Dr. Mark Bisson’s schedule when he retired. Bisson, who was out with clients and in the community, is credited with growing Sea View Optometric’s LGBTQ clientele.
Mitchell wants to continue that practice. On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., she will participate in a Q&A on eye health at the Long Beach LGBTQ Center.
In an interview with Q Voice News, Mitchell looked into our eyes and talked about her passion for optometry, growing up with two moms, and being a percussionist.
Here are some excerpts.
Eyes are the windows to a person’s health
“There’s so much that you can tell from a person’s eyes, even about their general health. We see some signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and all these systemic diseases that are very common. Sometimes we can be the first ones to find it,” Mitchell says.
“That’s really what interested me about optometry. You can tell all that from someone’s eyes,” she says. “We use our eyes all day long, but people don’t ever think about it. They take it for granted.”
Seeing her professional future while interning
“When I was interning here, I knew that I wanted to have something like this for my own practice eventually,” Mitchell says. “The environment is kind of like a boutique, close to the beach in a relaxed atmosphere, but at the same professional.”
A vision for the LGBTQ community
“Dr. Bisson did an amazing job of reaching out to the gay community. There was a need there, and he fulfilled it. That’s something that we’re trying to continue to do,” Mitchell says. “We’ve reached out to The Long Beach LGBTQ Center to do some seminar type things for them.”
Mother comes out to daughter
“My mom came out to me when I was 9 years old. When she came out to me, I already kind of knew I was gay, but I didn’t have a word for it,” Mitchell says. “She said, You know, I met this woman, and I love her, and I want her to meet you.
“I remember driving in the car, and she’s telling me this, and I said, I think I’m that way, too,” Mitchell says. “She said, What do you mean? I’m like, I think I like girls that way, too. She kind of chuckled and said, Well, we’ll see.”
Stephanie has two moms
“Both my parents came to all the school things, and my grandparents would come, too,” Mitchell says. “My grandparents had an issue at first, but they came around. They wanted to continue and have a relationship with me. Having a grandchild was their motivating force to acceptance.”
Little drummer girl
“As soon as I could, I was carrying a big bass drum, and in junior high, my parents gave in and got me my first drum set for my 13th birthday,” Mitchell says. “In high school, I was the drumline captain for three years.
“This all sounds simple now, but at the time, we’re talking the 1980s, there were definite gender challenges in this arena. Serious drumming was meant for boys,” Mitchell says. “To this day, I still have a drum set in my garage that I play, and of course, my kids enjoy it, too.”