Giving Back

By Kira Mayo

The Holidays are all about being thankful and giving back to those in need. In tribute to this time of year, I have reviewed three humanitarian efforts in the world of dermatology.

The Blade and Light Society;
The Blade and Light Society is a group of surgical dermatologists that trains physicians and provides free surgical therapy to those who live in underserved areas. The Society has three main goals:

1- Charitable work and public service: The Society identifies locations that have high incidences of skin cancer and inadequate local medical resources for treatment. A group of eight to 10 Blade and Light physician members, accompanied by several nurses and histotechnologists, then spend a week at a volunteer site and treat indigent patients. To make their effects long-lasting, they also train local physicians in skin cancer surgery. The team leader for volunteer trips abroad is Dr. Hayes Gladstone of Stanford University.

2- Research: The Society is committed to multicenter clinical research designed to improve the quality of healthcare, with much of their research aimed at finding the best surgical approach for a particular medical problem.

3- Mentoring: The society aims to teach each other through advanced coursework. Senior surgeons also mentor junior surgeons.

Gang tattoo removal

We all make mistakes, but getting a gang tattoo happens to be a permanent one. At rates of $150 to $500 per treatment, complete removal of a tattoo can cost up to several thousand dollars. Tattoo removal programs began to form in the early 1990s in the hopes of providing ex-gang members a chance to, quite literally, erase their past. Existing primarily in cities with high rates of gang membership, these programs provide individuals with a second chance for a successful life.

The following are gang tattoo removal programs organized by state. Some are privately run, while others are federally run.


-Agape Light Tattoo Removal, Los Angeles: This program has been running for several years by Dr. Steven Popkow and his local church. Call 310-915-8060 if you are interested in learning more about this program.

-Clean Slate Program, San Jose: Accepts gang-free participants ages 14-25 who are currently either in school or are working. After the participant completes 40 hours of community service, the program will remove any tattoo that is visible while wearing normal street clothing. Additionally, the participant has to remain committed for one year, attending bi-monthly group meetings for the first six months and monthly meetings for the next six months.


-Youth Removal Group (YRG), Dallas; Offers free removal of gang tattoos from the hands, neck and face on those younger than 18. The process takes several treatments, but they are free of charge even if the participant turns 18 before the tattoo is completely removed.


-Salt Lake Area Gang Project, Salt Lake County: This program started in 1991 in conjunction with the Utah Medical Center. Participants must be residents of Salt Lake County and must be gang free. Applicants do not have to have a job or be enrolled in school and there is no age limit. Participants cannot have been arrested within 1 year of applying and must be out of jail or prison and released from probation or parole for at least one year prior to entering the program. Participants also have to complete 20 hours of community service before qualifying for treatment and must provide photos of the tattoos they want removed.


-The Fairfax Skindeep Tattoo Removal Program: This program is sponsored in part by local government in Fairfax, Virginia. Participants must be 22 years old or younger and must have an adult sponsor. Participants must be gang-free and drug-free. They must also complete 40 hours of community service before their tattoo removal and have or actively seek a job.

Camp Discovery;
Sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Camp Discovery was formed in 1993 and offers campers with chronic skin conditions the opportunity to spend a week among other youngsters who have similar skin conditions. Many of the counselors have serious skin conditions as well, and can provide support and advice to campers. With the help of generous donations, the AAD provides scholarships that cover the full cost of camp. The AAD is proud to offer this experience to approximately 200 children each year.

Originally written for


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