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PA Greg Mennie removes a tattoo from Josh Garcia’s chest at Homeboy Industries in downtown Los Angeles, Feb. This article was originally published in the June-July 2012 issue of PA Professional magazine.
Today, seven years after reading the article, he volunteers several times a month with the Ya’Stuvo Tattoo Removal program at Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries.
The program provides services to at-risk youth, former gang members and those recently released from prison to help them become productive members of their communities. Volunteering is in line with the tenets of family medicine and the PA profession, as is the concept of taking care of communities.
The organization has its roots in the Jobs For a Future program, which was founded in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and Los Angeles native. Additional businesses grew out of the bakery such as Homegirl Cafe, which is managed by former gang-involved women and spurred the jobs program to evolve in 2001 into Homeboy Industries.
Homeboy Industries’ clinic has three laser tattoo removal machines, which were purchased through grants. A good day for Clarke is learning about a patient who, after multiple treatments, receives calls for three job interviews in a week. The medical volunteers are helping to increase patient access to care for a medically underserved population that might not otherwise be able to afford the costly treatment.
For Louie Duran, 31, the tattoo removal program helped him start a new chapter in his life.
Medical volunteers at Ya’Stuvo are removing four tattoos, scripted into the skin of Duran’s face, head and hands. Duran’s grandmother and parents were in gangs, and he had been in and out of prison most of his life. At last count, the clients who have come through Homeboy Industries for tattoo removal services represented 1,100 gangs.
It takes multiple treatments to remove a tattoo; how many varies, depending on the person’s skin pigmentation, the age of the tattoo, what materials were used and how the tattoo was placed, Mennie said. When a new patient comes in, Mennie first assesses the person’s skin type and how it might react to the laser.

When asked why PAs should volunteer in their communities, Mennie spoke plainly, but eloquently, about the responsibilities that come with being a physician assistant.
Homeboy Industries offers tattoo removal services four to five days a week, with shifts lasting from four to eight hours, depending on the availability of medical volunteers. Priority goes to those with visible, gang-related tattoos—including on places like the eyelids and lips—some of which people get in prison or at home.
Getting a tattoo removed hurts much more than having it done, say those who have undergone the procedure.
Homeboy Industries is always seeking medical volunteers for the tattoo removal program, in hopes of adding more clinic hours. One thing is C L E A R – In this day and age, YOU don’t have to live with Acne! At our MedSpa, we pride ourselves on giving you a customized skin plan using a multifaceted approach to optimize treatment.
Sponsored content is written by Global News' editorial staff without any editorial influence by the sponsor. Sponsored content is written by Global News' without any editorial influence by the sponsor.
He’s one of three PAs who are making a difference in the lives of former gang members, the others are Troy Clarke, PA-C, and Gary Ramirez, PA-C. Mennie, who specializes in family medicine, is a faculty member at the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital Family Medicine Residency in Whittier, an affiliate of the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine. The jobs program aimed at addressing the unmet needs of gang-involved youth by offering them  alternatives to the violence environment in which they lived. The independent nonprofit is now lauded as a national model and the country’s largest gang intervention and re-entry program. Food and Drug Administration regulates lasers, requirements regarding who has the authority to utilize laser technology to remove tattoos vary from state to state, according to Ann Davis, PA-C, AAPA senior director of state advocacy and outreach. He began volunteering at Homeboy Industries five years ago because of his belief in Father Boyle’s vision. But more importantly, Clarke said, they are helping not just the client, but the client’s family by providing them with an opportunity and hope for future generations.

The tattoos have the name of his neighborhood and “Venice,” the California city where he grew up. That changed after he heard about the organization while in state prison, and decided to check it out after he couldn’t find work anywhere. Today, he assists with paperwork and appointments for those coming in to have tattoos removed. The intense light essentially causes the tattoo’s ink to break into smaller particles that are eventually removed by the body’s immune system. During that time he’s become keenly aware from his patients’ stories—whether they’re teenagers or grandmothers—of just how significant a street number or a teardrop on the skin can be.
Four years later in response to the South Central Los Angeles riots, Boyle established Homeboy Bakery, a business that provided work experience, training and an opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side.
Its free programs including counseling, substance abuse assistance, job training and placement all aim to help young people and in many cases, adults, too, redirect their lives. He said gang-related tattoos marking where someone grew up, a street number or name are among the most commonly removed in the Ya’Stuvo program. Most patients have good outcomes from the procedure; however, the skin can scar, lighten, darken or become mottled, after a tattoo is removed. And there was change—evident by the impact of one of Homeboy Industries’ programs that offers free tattoo removal to former gang members, young and old. For former gang members, removing their tattoos means relinquishing a significant part of their identity and turning their backs on a tradition. The visible tattoos—on the neck, hands, face and elsewhere—can become roadblocks to those eager to leave the past behind. With it, they deny all they had known, been dedicated to and for which they committed crimes. However, he cannot say how many treatments would be necessary because at this point he is only working on mice.One in five Canadians has at least one tattoo, according to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted in 2012.

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