- Words by Tess Van Straaten Photography by Lia Crowe
A tranquil, high-end medical spa and a chaotic, bustling emergency room couldn’t be more different, but Dr. Matt Carere and Dr. Bri Budlovsky are equally at home in both settings.
“Emergency medicine is a passion for both of us and it addresses an immediate need, fixing things that need to be fixed. But with this clinic we wanted to create something beautiful where patients feel pampered and cared-for and staff feel nurtured,” says Matt of their new Philosophy MD medical spa in James Bay’s Capital Park.
The luxurious medical spa, which opened at the end of May, provides personalized cosmetic treatments including injectables, complexion and skin tightening treatments, facials and peels, and hair restoration.
“It’s confidence-boosting and it’s all about self-care,” Bri explains. “For my patients, it’s time they take away to do something nice for themselves. We wanted to be able to provide a more wholistic environment that made it feel very special for them. Unlike the ER, we have a longitudinal relationship with our patients here and we really get to know them.”
The doctors, who both have training in cosmetic medicine, met in 2017 while working in the Victoria General Hospital and Royal Jubilee Hospital emergency rooms, where Matt still works full-time.
“I was driven by the ability to solve problems for patients and I remember exactly when I decided I wanted to do it,” the 38-year-old father of two says of his decision to become a doctor. “I was in a chemistry class and I was able to get through these complex problems by thinking really clearly and methodically about them. I thought if I can do that for patients on a daily basis, what a wonderful thing!”
For Bri, who also has two small children and is an artist and musician was well, the decision to become a physician was a very personal one.
“When I was a teenager, my dad was in a cycling accident and he was quite injured,” the 35-year-old single mom explains. “He’s fine now, thankfully, but he was in hospital for a number of months and being there through his surgeries and recovery, there were a few physicians and nurses who stood out. One in particular—his spinal surgeon—really treated our family as a whole and recognized the impact on my mom and my sister and really included us in a really meaningful way.”
Bri and Matt were both born in Victoria but moved away for university and medical school. Matt played varsity volleyball at the University of Hawaii and then professional volleyball in Europe before going to medical school in Ireland. Bri did her undergrad at McGill and medical school at UBC, and she couldn’t wait to come back home to Victoria.
“Victoria’s amazing and my family’s all here, which was a huge part of the decision,” the former ER doctor says. “But it’s such a wonderful community. We have that small-town community type of attitude and feel, but then you have so many of the perks of a city with great businesses and lots of things to do.”
“I think it was only a matter of time before we came back with small kids,” Matt adds. “We’re lucky to have roots here and I think that’s why Bri and I have felt so passionate about building something here and creating a space where people from Victoria can come and feel cared for and looked after.”
Unlike most construction projects during wide-spread COVID-19 labour shortages and supply-chain issues, Matt and Bri say the creation of their calming Philosophy MD space has been surprisingly smooth.
“We’re so lucky we haven’t really had major issues,” Bri says. “Cascadia Architects did the design and totally elevated our vision. We’ve had the most incredible team with the builders (Jawl) and subcontractors, so that when some supply-chain issues did come up, they were all solvable and we’re really close to being on time, which is unheard of these days.”
Part of that was due to Jawl predicting shortages and the partners heeding advice to order everything as soon as possible.
“Our builder said that with certain items if we’d ordered them three months later, we would have been delayed in opening six to 12 months, so we just decided, let’s get it all here and we had it stored and ready to go,” Matt explains.
Being used to making decisions quickly has definitely helped the pair, but becoming entrepreneurs and starting a business has certainly posed a new challenge for the doctors, who are in partnership with Matt’s wife, Tara Carere, who runs Victory Media and specializes in marketing aesthetic medicine, and CFO Carla Matheson, who has a business background and experience with start-ups.
“There aren’t a lot of models doing what we’re doing, so learning to run a new business has been really different,” Bri says. “We did it all from the ground up and it was a steep learning curve.”
“We’ve really had to learn how to work within a budget and we’ve had to be smart with money and plan things appropriately,” adds Matt. “I think the biggest lesson so far is the need to be in constant communication. There are so many moving parts and so many things that need to happen in concert that we’ve learned that we always have to be communicating with the entire team all the time.”
As for deciding to open a new business during the pandemic, the partners say it was definitely a calculated risk. But the medical spa industry is growing and demand actually went up during the pandemic.
“When you’re opening a business at this time in the world, there are a lot of unknowns,” Matt says. “But we felt like, if not now, when? We knew we wanted to do something together so we just put one foot in front of the other.”