Downtown Galveston is known for its historic architecture, but the buildings themselves would be long forgotten - or worse, lost - if it were not for the endless creativity and tenacity of the small business owners who continually use their brilliance to infuse the would-be relics with new life and purpose. Now, in addition to an array of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, the area is home to Galveston’s very first medispa. It is the creation of Dr. Tara Wegryn, whose practice of enabling clients to “Look Fresh, Feel Confident” has reinvented not only a commercial structure built in 1870, but also a family legacy that goes back generations.
“I come from a medical family,” says Dr. Wegryn as she proudly lists the various family members and their respective specialties. Even though the family has a running joke that the one who chose psychiatry “doesn’t count,” Tara too has realized the importance of balancing mental and physical health with the recent opening of her medispa (or med-spa) - a genre of wellness that uses medical-grade treatments within the philosophies and environment of a day spa. This rather romantic coupling of cutting-edge medical technology with a relaxed atmosphere also suits Dr. Wegryn in that she relates to her professional foray on a very personal level.
Her grandfather was a surgeon, and he met her grandmother when she was in nursing school. “At the time, nurses weren’t allowed to marry,” Tara explains. The rule had been imposed on the profession in an attempt to elevate its prestige and distance it from the longstanding “camp follower” reputation it garnered during the Civil War.
Tara’s grandparents dated in secret until they were caught and exposed. Instead of being expelled, however, the aspiring nurse was permitted to remain on campus barring two conditions.
First, she had to deliver breakfast in bed to the headmistress every morning. “Which seems a little self-serving, right?” Tara asks playfully. Secondly and most devastating, she was not allowed to see her beau for the remainder of her schooling. She had two years to go.
“But he waited,” Tara says wistfully, “He was there waiting at the train station to pick her up when she arrived home.”
The couple settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey. “My grandfather spent his entire life practicing medicine in the Polish ghetto. He adored those people, and they loved him, too.” The town gave him a Polish nickname that translates to “Golden Hands,” and his office was located a couple of blocks from the nearby seaport.
“It was a special moment when I realized that my business is located two blocks from the port - just like my grandfather’s.” Indeed, both her talent and affection for the medical profession are innate if not genetic; she is moved by her family’s story as easily as she speaks medical terminology like it is her native tongue.
Dr. Wegryn received her medical degree from the University of Florida and followed that with an internship in Internal Medicine at Oschner Foundation in New Orleans, a 3-year residency in Neurology at the Cleveland Clinic, and an electrophysiology fellowship. She was one of the first Neurologists hired when the Cleveland Clinic opened a location in Fort Lauderdale, which is where she practiced until exactly 21 years ago when she moved to Lafitte’s Cove on Galveston’s West End. Dr. Wegryn and her husband have been residents of the island ever since.
Tara worked in the Neurology Department of the University of Texas Medical Branch before deciding to open an intraoperative monitoring company to serve Houston’s medical center. Houston Neuromonitoring provided real-time monitoring of patients’ nervous systems during potentially dangerous surgeries, and its success demonstrated a business savvy that complemented her medical experience.
“But then the model changed, and it was not good,” she explains, as the quest for technological advancement demanded that the monitoring process use remote viewing when ideally it demands one-on-one, in-person attention.
“After 17 years, I closed the company, then I went and worked for another company but finally decided to retire. I cooked for an AIDS center on Montrose, and then randomly I had a couple of people say to me, ‘Tara, you should open a med-spa.’”
“I had no idea what that was,” she remembers, “but then I researched the concept and discovered that it provided minimally- to noninvasive medical treatments in a sterile but pleasing environment. I also learned, however, that medispas have some of the loosest regulations.”
Unfortunately, this can lead to inexperienced practitioners who do not have a comprehensive medical knowledge. “I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to try to do it the best I can.”
She chose the International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine (IAPAM) in Arizona for her training, because they only train licensed MDs. “You have to read and understand an entire stack of articles before you even begin,” Tara says of the rigorous and thorough course-training.
“Botox was actually originally used to treat neurological problems like migraines and spasticity. As an electrophysiologist, I had a detailed understanding of anatomy. That is when I realized that moving from my past experience to a medispa was a natural progression.”
Tara also embraced the concept because it is customizable to the preferences of both herself and her clients. “At IAPAM, they advised us to create our practice with only things that we enjoy. But I also know that everyone has a life, priorities, and a budget.”
Dr. Wegryn consults with every client prior to treatment in order to personalize their experience at Refresh Medispa.
Treatments include hydro-facials that mploy a patented machine to sweep and vacuum the skin with liquids instead of abrasive tools; Sublative Rejuvenation that promotes collagen production to repair wrinkles, acne scars, and other skin imperfections; and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) for hair regrowth, a legitimate and scientifically sound treatment used in medicine that can also increase the growth factors necessary to combat hair loss. Refresh also carries a wide selection of products from the skincare lines ZO Skin Health and Colorescience.
“I chose all of these because they are science and they work. And there is not one treatment that I offer that I have not done on myself - or my husband,” she says with a mischievous smile. Even her assistant Kate Winsett, who works to maintain the soothing atmosphere through top-notch service, has been her guinea pig.
No matter the procedure or the customization, the services at Refresh Medispa all share the underlying premise of slow and natural-looking improvement. “Sometimes a client will say, ‘I want to do something, but I don’t want to look like Joan Rivers,’” Tara laughs. “These procedures are not about being obsessed or looking fake.”
Most importantly, Tara had missed the relationships she developed since her retirement. “I truly love helping patients (now clients). I love giving back and being productive. In the less than nine months I have been open, I have met so many fascinating people, heard so many amazing stories, learned so much about Galveston, its history, and its people,” she says.
Opening her practice in Galveston has added a dimension to the business that would not have been achievable elsewhere. “I have been able to be a part of the Galveston downtown business community, to get a little sense of what life was like…when the ships and the rails brought most of the life and prosperity to this island.”
This is the backdrop against which Dr. Wegryn helps people with busy, full lives, Look Fresh and Feel Confident.
Refresh Medispa is located at 2424 Mechanic Street. Open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm and Saturdays by appointment. To schedule a consultation, call 409.443.5633. For more information and a complete list of services, visit www.RefreshMediDaySpa.com