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Dermatologist touched by Angel Faces

SOLANA BEACH — In her continuous effort to give back, a Solana Beach dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon is working to increase public awareness and expand the scope of Angel Faces, a local nonprofit founded in 2003 to transform the lives of adolescent girls with severe, traumatic facial burns, disfigurements and injuries.

“It’s such a wonderful organization with such a noble cause,” said Melanie Palm, M.D. “I want to broadcast the message.”

Palm became involved with Angel Faces about four years ago and has served on the board of directors for the past two.

“I was invited by an industry executive to go to an annual retreat at a beautiful Southern California desert resort,” she said. “I watched the girls work-shopping and doing therapy and yoga sessions to help them relax and center so they can deal with difficult situations.

“They did a butterfly release, which is symbolic of the metamorphosis that often happens when they attend the week-long retreat,” Palm added. “I was just so touched.”

Palm later attended a regional workshop as a guest speaker.

“As you can imagine most of these girls have pretty traumatic facial injuries so they get lots of strange questions and looks from people,” she said. “As part of the exercise they had been given a framework to interact with people. So they were asking me about me.

“To me that was special just seeing how open the girls were and how that builds their confidence and their skill set so that maybe when they’re posed with difficult or awkward situations they have that framework to fall back on.”

As part of her blended practice, Art of Skin MD, Palm said she does a lot of aesthetic procedures.

“I love the whole idea of being able to use that to help foster confidence in young women,” she said.

Angel Faces offers two levels of retreats designed to enhance social skills and self-esteem while addressing the emotional and psychological healing process within a holistic framework of mind, body and spirit, according to the website.

The first level, for girls between the ages of 12 and 18, offers group sessions lead by licensed psychologists who focus on identifying trauma and loss issues. Attendees then learn methods to facilitate emotional healing through verbal expression, journaling and art therapy.

The program also provides professional instruction for applying corrective cosmetics and includes massage therapy.

The Level 2 retreat, for women 19 to 29, provides an opportunity to improve self-image and increase self-confidence while embracing the trauma and related disfigurement. Attendees engage in interactive experiences, learning sessions, group discussions and physical activity.

Palm said she would like to expand the program to include boys and young men.

While all of the women she’s met are inspiring, Palm has gotten to know one beyond the retreats.

“I continued to treat one of the young girls after her reconstructive surgery,” she said. “I helped with resurfacing the scars in the central part of her face.

“That relationship is really meaningful to me because she’s become more than a patient,” Palm added. “She’s truly a girl I’ve seen blossom. I went to her graduation and now I’ve been invited to her wedding.

“She’s an amazing individual and that’s really the power of Angel Faces,” she said. “It’s taking girls who have been dealt a difficult deck of cards in some situations and seeing them develop into strong, educated, confident independent women that are happy and successful in life.”

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