INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Aging is a natural, necessary part of life. Over time, your body begins to illustrate the bends, twists and turns your life has taken. Wrinkles and sun spots reflect damage from days spent under the intense glow of harmful ultraviolet rays. Joint and muscle pains may indicate too little or even too much exercise over a lifespan. Skin sags in places you wish it wouldn't, fat cells accumulate in unflattering proportions, and hormone imbalances only expedite the aging process.
But what if you could rehabilitate a torn meniscus without surgery and a long recovery process? What if you could lose weight quickly without going under the knife? What if you could look 10 years younger without the painful aid of a face lift?
Dr. Rebecca Gelber is proving that you can.
As founder of Tahoe Medical Spa in Incline Village, Gelber's mission is to bring minimally invasive anti-aging therapies to the aesthetic medical field through innovative treatments and technologies. At her boutique-like practice, which she co-owns with her husband Matthew, Gelber offers an abundance of non-invasive services like dermal fillers, vein sclerotherapy and weight loss plans.
It sounds vain; however, Gelber is anything but.
In fact, until opening the medical spa nearly two years ago, Gelber had dedicated her life's work to emergency response medicine. After graduating from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1993, Gelber completed her residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she met the love of her life, Matthew.
“When I started looking for a job with a university, Michael said to me, ‘I'll follow you any place in world as long as it's in California and not within 3 hours of Los Angeles,'” Gelber said, turning to her husband with a grin stretched across her angelic face.
Without hesitation, Gelber followed her heart's desire to Northern California where she worked as an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of California Davis Medical Center for eight years before relocating to Tahoe in 2000.
With a passion still burning for emergency medicine, Gelber went to work in the ER unit at Renown Medical Center and also taught classes at UNR, but the chaos and hardships of emergency response began to take their toll on Gelber's graceful spirit.
“I really did enjoy emergency medicine, but after a long period of time, you start to want to develop relationships with your patients that are ongoing … you really want to help people be well, and what you're seeing in emergency medicine is the end result of people who haven't been able to take care of themselves,” Gelber said.
With her husband's background in biology and his Internet savvy skills, combined with Gelber's passion for medicine, the two decided it was time for a change, and nearly two years ago, they embarked on a business venture many said would fail.
“Everyone in this field told us Incline was too small of a community to be successful,” Matthew said of opening Tahoe Medical Spa, located on Northwood Boulevard.
“People said even if you take care of everyone in town, you still won't have enough clientele to be successful,” Gelber added.
But the Gelbers were determined to make their career change work, so they opened a medical spa where the mood is soothing and less clinical. The atmosphere evokes a wellness center feel rather than a doctor's office. A fountain trickles in the entrance, the smell of aromatherapy permeates the waiting room, and soothing melodies play in the background.
“We try to keep it that way and not make it feel clinical and cold, and I think because of that, we have long-term relationships with most of our patients … and our clients are very consistent,” Gelber said, deflecting any negative opinions of her potential success.
As a 20-year-old medical student, Gelber said she never predicted this would be the path her life's work would eventually take, but said she's grateful for the change in course and finds the career more rewarding than she ever anticipated.
“I find this way more fulfilling, which sounds odd because when I was in my 20s, I would have never thought that I would be doing this. I thought doctors should be taking care of kids with cancer and saving people from dying, but it's amazing how rewarding this is,” Gelber said. “It's a lot more fun seeing people taking the time to look well and feel well, and seeing patients who are happy and healthy.”
“People are happy when they come here and happier when they leave — nobody comes to us because they have to,” Matthew added.
Michael serves as the front desk attendant and receptionist while Gelber works with patients identifying skin, weight, muscular or joint problems, and both are humble to admit their strengths as business partners.
“She is the practice, I'm just the …” Matthew trails off and Rebecca steps in.
“He's the person who makes the practice work,” she says, looking to her husband with confidence. “He has the business background, he's Internet savvy, but he also has the biology background and the paramedic training, so he understands the medicine part of.
“He can also interface well with patients and explain to them what's going on, and that's really important.”
“I take out the trash on Wednesdays and kill scary spiders,” he chimes in with pride.
While the two may not find a meeting of the minds on who the backbone of the business is, what they can agree on is the power in alternative, aesthetic medicine, particularly as it relates to stem cell research and regenerative therapies.
Simply put, this new strategy of medical technology works by treating diseased or injured tissues with new cells taken from other areas of the body, such as fat cells, and introducing them to the damaged tissue as means of self-rejuvenation, Gelber said.
The Gelbers also have tapped into what medical research maintains is a new wave of non-invasive medicine, and although there are skeptics, Rebecca and Matthew believe wholeheartedly in what they're doing.
“It's the most exciting thing I've ever seen in medicine,” Gelber said. “I believe in this more than anything I've ever believed in medicine.”