“[We are] converging wellness and hospitality,” said Dr. Joseph Chang when describing the concept behind Montecito Aesthetic Institute (MAI), the medical spa he opened a few years ago on Coast Village Road. More than simply attending to people’s skin, MAI is a place where the notion of aesthetic is spread throughout the business. So, while you can get medical treatments at MAI (the “wellness” aspect), you can also get pampered and take in an art exhibit (the “hospitality”).

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Chang migrated west to attend college and never looked back. “I went to UCLA and did my residency training at the Jules Stein Eye Institute,” he said. While there, he met a professor who had a practice in Bakersfield and invited Chang to come work with him. “After surgery [one day], he patted me on the back and said, ‘Nice job, Joe. If you want to come to Bakersfield, give me a call.’”

<b>LOOKING GOOD:</b> Dr. Joseph Chang’s (pictured) Montecito Aesthetic Institute puts a twist on the typical medi spa.

After school, Chang made the move to Bakersfield — “a town more similar to [Knoxville] than you might think,” he said — and began his professional career. “I started as a general ophthalmologist, and I did all kinds of eye surgery. I had an emphasis in oculoplastics, but I did everything else, too.” In 2009, he decided to concentrate solely on oculoplastics, a sub-specialty of ophthalmology that focuses on surgical procedures particular to the eye socket and the associated area, such as eyelids, tear ducts, and the surrounding facial section.

A few years later, Chang expanded his business to Montecito, bringing to town a twist on the typical medi spa. “Part of my motivation to create this entity was not just to have a functioning business but to create something beautiful that can add to this geography,” he explained. “I asked my [interior] designer to create a space specifically as an art gallery, as well as a functioning medical aesthetics business.”

Since opening, MAI has collaborated with area fine-art galleries and hosted about 10 exhibits. “I’m really excited about our upcoming event; I know it’s going to be our best one yet,” Chang said. “We are working with Miki Garcia, who is the executive director of the new Santa Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art. Our concept is seven local artists who are just on the cutting edge.” Titled Eye of the Beholder: Contemporary Art from Santa Barbara, the show features artists Nancy Gifford, Kimberly Hahn, Mary Heebner, Kathy Kissik, Zacarias Paul, Ro Snell, and James Van Arsdale.

Although Chang has incorporated fine art into his business model, MAI is a professional medical practice. “I do a lot of the procedures, and I also have nurses here that do procedures like laser hair removal and photo facials,” he said. To help decide what each client needs, he has divided skin assessment into four categories: color, texture, contour, and dynamics. After diagnosing which grouping a client is in, he then determines the kinds of treatments to pursue.

Chang also has some tips for postponing the aging process: “I’d say put off surgery as long as you can, put off fillers as long as you can. The one thing medical [to use] is Botox. Botox truly is preventative.” For non-medical remedies, there are the facials and chemical peels, for example. However, more than anything, Chang recommends following good sun habits. “The main thing is UV management,” he said. “Spend less time in the sun; wear a hat, sunglasses. I’m a big advocate for sunblock.”


The opening reception of Eye of the Beholder takes place Friday, October 18, from 6-8 p.m. MAI is located at 1150 Coast Village Rd., Montecito. For more information, call (805) 565-5700.


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