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A New Start: Tattoo Removal Program at Kaiser Permanente

Dr. Jed Weissberg, Kaiser Permanente volunteer physician, administering laser treatment to remove tattoos on the leg of a participant in  Project New Start, a collaboration with Eden Youth & Family Center
Dr. Jed Weissberg, Kaiser Permanente volunteer physician, administering laser treatment to remove tattoos on the leg of a participant in Project New Start, a collaboration with Eden Youth & Family Center

A free program provides hope and opportunity for a clean slate for young people in Southern Alameda County

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.

Many of the participants are looking to distance themselves from gangs or drug involvement. A collaboration between Eden Youth & Family Center, the project also provides access to real-world experience for 150 youth through community volunteer commitments, monthly peer support groups, and other resources to help youth transition out of gang or drug lifestyles.

“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.”

New Start is a collaborative partnership with Kaiser Permanente Hayward and Fremont Medical Centers and Eden Youth & Family Center.  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 209-373-7654.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Keyla Rojas July 24, 2013 at 11:43 AM
The phone number is incorrect
Kaiser Permanente July 29, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Keyla - Apologies. The number is 209-373-7654.

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