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August 13, 2013 > Tattoo removal program provides a clean slate

Tattoo removal program provides a clean slate

Submitted By Jessie Mangaliman

Two dozen young men and women from Southern Alameda County came to Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center one recent Saturday to get their past erased... literally.

Under a Kaiser Permanente community benefit supported program, Project New Start, youth ages 13 to 25 from Southern Alameda County signed up to have tattoos removed with laser treatment during bi-monthly free clinics at Kaiser Permanente medical centers in Fremont and Hayward.

"We are thrilled to collaborate with other community groups to sponsor the tattoo removal clinics," said Dr. Jed Weissberg, Senior Vice President, Quality Care and Delivery Excellence, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. "This program helps young people who are choosing to eschew their past and embrace their future by eliminating those skin markings from a part of their life that's behind them."

For more than seven years, Dr. Weissberg has been the volunteer physician for the tattoo removal clinic at Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center. "It is an honor to be able to help," he said, "and the Kaiser Permanente supported clinic makes that possible." The program utilizes volunteer nursing and medical staff in the tattoo removal process. Under Project New Start, participants must complete 50 hours of community service.

Dr. Calvin Wheeler, Physician In Chief for Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center and the Greater Southern Alameda Area, praised the medical volunteers. "It's such a service of love for people who coordinate and do the work," Wheeler said. "And I'm glad we're able to assist in helping people in the community turn their lives around."

Lydia Benjamin-Ajani, an RN at Fremont Medical Center who has been volunteering with the tattoo removal clinic for seven and half years, said the satisfaction "is in giving back."

"We hear the stories of these young men and women," she said. "For me to help them get a new start, I like that."

Hayward resident Theresa Montez-Marshall, 20, has been getting tattoos since she was 15 years old. An old gang tattoo on her back, treated Saturday, July 13 is a faded outline now. She recently got married and is planning to train as a massage therapist. She wants a clean slate. "I know getting these removed will help me with my future," she said, pointing to tattoos on her neck, chest and leg.

Cris Lloyd, 19, of San Leandro, said he has never been in a gang and the tattoos on his neck and hands are decorative but they are an everyday reminder of other people's perspective. "Some people think instantly you're a criminal or a gang person because of your tattoos," Lloyd said. "I know I have to do this because I want to go to college and get a good job. I know that if you transform your mind, you have to transform your appearance."

Cindy Santiago, the long-time coordinator of the program, said she is grateful for the support and collaboration with Kaiser Permanente in Southern Alameda County. "It makes a positive impact on the lives of young people," she said, "and it makes a positive impact on the community."

For more information on Project New Start and the next clinic, call Cindy Santiago at 209-373-764.

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