By Breanne McGhee, OD, of New Orleans, Louisiana, and 2020 Young OD recipient of Women In Optometry’s Theia Awards of Excellence
I think many people would agree that 2020 brought us all isolation, uncertainty, fear and depression. During the spring 2020 quarantine, depression hit me very hard. Unfortunately, I lost many family members, friends and patients to COVID-19. I was also furloughed from my job and discovered I had an irregular, avocado-sized tumor in my abdomen. I was scared and terrified. With all of the horrible and depressing thoughts constantly roaming through my head at the time, I remember my mother, Joyce, saying to me, “Why don’t you do something you like to do to keep your mind off of everything, like a hobby.”
My response was, “like what?” I am a foodie and enjoy going out to explore new restaurants in New Orleans, but everywhere in the city was closed. Growing up, I always enjoyed creative writing. I would write songs, stories, poetry—anything you name I was writing it down. If I wasn’t an optometrist, I would’ve become a screenwriter for a movie or TV show. However, once I started college, optometry school and a career, that hobby became obsolete. I decided to take my mom’s advice, and I began writing again. She was right. I started writing songs, and one song led to another song, which led to a repertoire of songs in my notebook. I was happy, smiling, peaceful and feeling like myself again.
“Queen” was inspired by the incredible work, extraordinary talent and momentous achievements of women everywhere. I would watch the news or see on social media women “killing the game” in every field and discipline across the globe! I mean…Black women, White women, Latina women, Asian women, trans women, queer women, young and old were accomplishing so much despite an active pandemic going on. Many were strangers, women whom I have never met, and I was so extremely proud of them because an achievement made by one woman is an achievement for us all. “Queen” is an empowering song and a social anthem telling women of all backgrounds and identities to “continue being unapologetically you and phenomenal.” Nothing about being a woman is monolithic and nothing about being a Black woman is nothing less than magical.
I decided to make a music video as a gift to celebrate women everywhere, especially Black women who are often ignored, oppressed and silenced. This song is dedicated to the women in my family, especially my 93-year-old grandmother, Beatrice, the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. She has seen so much in her lifetime. Her wisdom and life’s story fuel my ambition to accomplish new goals that she was once unable to do because of the color of her skin or for simply begin a woman. One thing she taught me was “to remain humble…and no matter where you go in life to always be willing to help someone else along the way.” This song is also dedicated to my sweet daughter, Ryann. When she gets older, I want her to know that she can accomplish anything that she puts her mind to because “the only thing standing in between you and an opportunity is you.”
2020 was pretty bad, yes…but it taught me to appreciate and value time. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so live each moment like it’s your last. Prior to the pandemic, I would have never thought about making music or a music video. However, some of the wisest words I have ever heard was “YOLO…you only live once.” I apply this to my life every day.
If you want to be a chef or become a ballerina, do it. If you want to travel the world and become an actress, do it. If you want to open a business, write a new book or go back to school, do it. Women are often told what they can and cannot do because girls can’t do it. Continue to roll up your sleeves and prove the world wrong, my sisters! We can do and have been doing the inevitable since the inception of time. Now, if you want to go sky diving or bungee jumping, you can do it but Dr. Bre will not be there with you. I like these two feet of mines on the ground.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to salute all of the women optometrists, optometry students and residents who are all moving our beloved profession forward! Special thank you to my mentors doctors: Jennifer Coyle, OD, MS, FAAO; Sherrol Reynolds, OD; Millicent Knight, OD, FAAO, FAARM; Karla Zadnik, OD; Andrea Thau, OD; Cynthia Heard, OD; Linda Johnson, OD; Jarrett Johnson, OD; Stephanie Kennedy, OD; Astiney Franklin, OD; Danyetta Thomas, OD; Catherine Johnson, OD; Sanica Matthew, OD; Janette Pepper, OD; Alana Louie, OD; Peyton Taylor, OD; Amy Puerto, OD; and all of the amazing women on faculty and staff at Pacific University College of Optometry!
In the words of the amazing poet, Amanda Gorman: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Be the light, my Queens!
Watch Dr. McGhee’s official music video for Queen below.