By Michael J. Sacopulos, JD
We are in the midst of the holiday season. It seems everyday when I open up my mail, I am being asked to donate money from everything to Coats for Kids to local food pantries. Then there are the requests for pro bono professional services. These are all worthy causes but like many of you I am concerned how to address unlimited needs with limited resources. Not surprising, it turns out many plastic surgeons face the same predicament every year.
“I was just getting inundated with this and I remembered a show on 60 Minutes about 10 years ago about a Plastic Surgeon doing pro bono work, I kind of just filed that in the back of my mind,” says Thomas Jeneby, MD, a plastic surgeon based in San Antonio, Texas.
Last year, Jeneby asked his office manager to go look into the battered women’s clinic in San Antonio to see if he could offer any of his medical expertise to the victims. “They were just happy because they have a lot of women over there who are abused,” Jeneby says.
More than five million women a year are affected by domestic violence in the United States: sadly more than one million victims require medical attention. Jeneby says by donating his operating room, his professional skills and his anesthesiologists time, he knows he is making a difference. After a week of creating a plan with the Battered Women’s Clinic, Jeneby had his first patient.
“I treated one lady, who the husband tore her scalp off with a dull knife and flushed it down the toilet and left her with a huge bald spot,” Jeneby says. After two to three surgeries, Jeneby was able to sew her bald spot together.
“Another lady, her husband set her on fire, burned her ear off, burned her shoulder, neck, arm and the webs of her fingers,” Jeneby says.
Thankfully, Jeneby is not the only plastic surgeon offering pro bono work to help abuse victims. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) has a program called Face to Face. In 1994, Face to Face formed an alliance with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The coalition refers domestic violence victims who do not have the means to pay for surgery.
“It is an important calling and I think it helps to reinforce the message as well as the mission of why someone goes into a field like Facial Plastic Surgery, is to help people and to make their lives better,” says Face to Face chairman Harrison C. Putnam III, MD.
“Every plastic surgeon can afford to give up an hour once a month or once every other month,” Jeneby says.
The AAFPRS is trying to expand its mission by increasing funds and staffing. Meanwhile Jeneby would like to see other specialties step on board — dentists and OB-GYNs, for exa,ple — to help service the battered women community.
If you would like to become involved in the Face to Face program, you should contact the AAFPRS at (703) 299-9291.
Michael J. Sacopulos is a Partner with Sacopulos, Johnson & Sacopulos, in Terre Haute, Indiana. His core expertise is in medical malpractice defense and third party payment disputes. Sacopulos may be reached at [email protected]