Practicing medicine in 2014 is an interesting endeavor. Many times the patient-doctor relationship is obscured by insurance companies, electronic medical records and pre-authorization requests. Every once-in-a-while, I am reminded why plastic surgery is such a fantastic vocation. As a member of the Board of Directors and a Volunteer Surgeon, I am lucky (and humbled) to be part of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts
Fresh Start Surgical Gifts was founded in the 1980s as a non-profit to treat children who suffered from traumatic injuries or birth defects. Its mission is to provide children with a “fresh start” in life. Our model is much different than the average plastic surgery charity. Instead of traveling abroad to offer our services, where sometimes patients may not have access to appropriate follow-up, Fresh Start welcomes both domestic and international children to San Diego. As they arrive in San Diego, every aspect of their care is donor-funded. From transportation, meals, evaluation, surgery and post-operative recovery. They stay until they are ready to head home safely…it’s that simple. In addition, Fresh Start is one of the only organizations where U. S. children who are “under-insured” can receive cosmetic surgery secondary to deformities of traumatic injuries if their primary insurance denies service or if it is too costly for their families.
Last week, I had the pleasure of traveling to New York City with several doctors, board members and patients of Fresh Start. We had the honor of being awarded the 2014 Community Partnership Award from Mutual of America. Each year, the Mutual of America Foundation sponsors a national competition in which hundreds of organizations demonstrate the value of their partnership to the communities they serve, their ability to be replicated by others and their capacity to stimulate new approaches to addressing significant social issues. Since its inception in 1996, the Community Partnership Award has recognized 190 partnerships from cities and towns all across America. All of the honorees are leaders in society, creating innovative and effective solutions to help those in need.
It was wonderful to be back in NYC. Mutual of America provided a fantastic agenda. We were taken of a tour of NASDAQ and honored at a dinner located in the 35th floor Grand Ballroom at Mutual of America’s beautiful Park Avenue Offices. Our CEO, Shari Brasher, received a monetary grant and a Hollywood-style promotional video was unveiled highlighting the work of Fresh Start.
Our trip wasn’t all business. I took the opportunity to re-live some of the beauty of New York City. Incredible restaurants and sites to see. I visited dear friends and family…including a brand new little cousin in Brooklyn. New York is exciting. As I walked the bustling avenues, I couldn’t help but notice just how small I was compared to the massive skyscrapers and the millions of people navigating this metropolis. Everyone of us has an opportunity to make the world a better place. Somewhere near 51st and Lexington, I thought about our little slice of life in San Diego and how all of our wonderful doctors, nurse and volunteers of Fresh Start help to change the lives of children everyday for the better. Maybe it was the cold air or smog, but I did get a bit of a tear in my eye. Thank you Fresh Start for doing what you do.
Salvatore J. Pacella, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S.