Shortly after Dr Donna Matthew opened her private medical practice in 2008, she entered a niche market that took her business to another level.
“I decided to get into the area of eyelash fusion, where women get artificial eyelashes stuck on. It is separate and distinct from medicine, and I went into that field because at the time no one else was doing it and it was becoming popular on the island,” she explained.
The idea for the Caribbean Weight Loss Centre, which Dr Matthew also runs, grew out of a meeting with one of her eyelash clients and a conversation she had with Barbadian entertainer Rupee.
“One of the clients that came to get her eyelashes done showed me the weight loss programme. But about a month before that, Rupee told me he was on it and showed me the foods he was preparing and the medicines associated with it. My client brought me the whole package and I took it home and read it. Six weeks later, I saw Rupee at a show at Kensington Oval and noticed that he had gotten smaller, so I realized that the programme worked and sought further information on it.
“Eventually, in 2011, I went to Arizona in the United States to further my studies in aesthetics medicine, which included Botox and this weight loss programme, and my practice started from there,” she explained.
Initially, it took a while to catch on, as both clients and her peers in the medical fraternity were somewhat sceptical about the effectiveness of the programme.
She recalled that she was only the second person offering that particular weight loss programme in Barbados, and even though it had been around since 1954, no comprehensive studies had ever been carried out on it.
“So there was some doubt at first, despite the fact there were many positive results from patients the world over,” the doctor recalled. But it has since taken off.
In her field, Dr Matthew has experienced being treated differently because of her gender.
“I remember when I was a young doctor working in the Accident & Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital people, especially men, often expressed surprise when I walked in the room after the nurse told them, ‘Dr Matthew will see you’, with many of them saying, ‘You’re Dr Matthew? I thought you were a man!’ And with that, they would underestimate my capability and I had to work extra hard to come up with a diagnosis,” she said.
“It is still a man’s world, hence I applaud the #MeToo and #Timesup movements, as well as our own #LifeinLeggings effort which must be used as positive influencers to build our women and girls up, to help them believe they can be anything they want to be. And with the use of social media, the whole world can get involved.”
When asked about women who posed semi-nude on their social media pages, Dr Matthew said: “I understand people have a right to express themselves and showcase their individuality, but when I see anyone I know put up those pictures, I tell them to remove them. People do these things for various reasons—to build up their confidence, to step out of the box society may have placed them in, or sometimes they just put up a picture to see how many ‘likes’ they will get.”
The general practitioner has called for the establishment of a sex offenders registry in Barbados, saying that it was important from a medical perspective.
“To protect both younger and older women, we cannot put sex offenders in positions where the offence can be easily repeated. If we want a fair slate for all our women we must put this in place,” she said.
As for the claim that some people may be falsely accused, she added: “In Barbados we have a good judicial system, so most likely if someone is accused, they did something.
They won’t be scarred for life; they will undergo rehab with a therapist and ultimately be placed in a job where they can resist the temptation to do it again.”
Dr Matthew, who has no children of her own as yet but is ‘Auntie’ to many, advises young women to “trust God for guidance, do your schoolwork, be confident and don’t watch the boys, especially as a teenager, because they can distract you from your goals.”
As for her legacy, she said: “I want to empower and help as many people as I can, to make a positive impact all over the world, and social media makes that process much easier.”