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Volunteer Diaries: Fresh Start Surgical Gifts

Plastic surgeon Jeffrey Umansky, MD discusses volunteering with the nonprofit providing life-changing surgeries and medical care to children in need
Dr. Jeffrey Umansky MD headshot
Dr. Jeffrey Umansky MD San Diego Plastic Surgeon Fresh Start Surgical Gifts

Since 1991, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts has been transforming the lives of kids and teens with physical deformities in San Diego and beyond. The nonprofit provides reconstructive surgery and related health care services at no cost. San Diego plastic surgeon Jeffrey Umansky, MD, is one of the world-class surgeons who generously donates time and talent to provide disadvantaged youth with care and confidence. Dr. Umansky is also a former president and current member of the Fresh Start Surgical Gifts board.

What made you want to become a volunteer for Fresh Start Surgical Gifts?

I became aware of Fresh Start many years ago and was asked to volunteer by Dr. Amanda Gosman (director of the Fresh Start Clinic for Craniofacial Anomalies at Rady Children’s Hospital). I had experienced on outreach trips to Mexico with another great organization but was drawn to the idea of the comprehensive care that patients receive at Fresh Start. The collaboration behind the scenes is truly amazing. Prospective patients are reviewed by several top physicians from multiple specialties, ensuring patients receive the best possible care. The staff and volunteers at Fresh Start are masters at coordinating the surgical weekends. After 30 years, the organization runs like a well-oiled machine and continues to expand.

What do your volunteer duties entail?

As a volunteer surgeon, I am involved in the planning and treatment of our patients. We see a wide array of different cases resulting from congenital defects, burns, trauma, and abuse. Some patients require multiple surgeries over many years, which makes Fresh Start such a great option for many children.

Is training required?

The training required to be a plastic surgeon takes 5+ years after completing medical school. Luckily, not everyone has to be a doctor to help. The organization does so well in large part due to our great volunteers!

What’s been your favorite day so far?

My best moment was seeing a patient of mine wearing a tank top for the first time in his life. He gained so much confidence that he asked the girl he liked out and they had a great time at their high school prom! 

What’s one of the biggest challenges of volunteering?

The biggest challenge is keeping up with all the kids that need our help. Expansion to Chicago and San Antonio has been great at allowing us to treat so many deserving kids.

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