As a dermatologist and a cosmetic surgeon, Melanie Palm often heals scars. But as a supporter of Angel Faces, a local nonprofit that runs retreats for adolescent girls and young women dealing with burns and traumatic injuries, the Solana Beach doctor helps people heal the scars on their hearts.
“Anything we can do to positively impact these girls, who oftentimes experience and live through pretty horrific events, is life changing,” Palm said. “These girls aren’t defined by their burns.”
A Cardiff resident, Palm opened her private practice, Art of Skin MD, in Solana Beach in 2012. Someone at one of the laser companies she works with told her about Angel Faces.
Founded in 2003, the Encinitas-based organization offers retreats for girls ages 12-18, retreats for women ages 19-29, mentorship programs and post-retreat support programs. As a guest, Palm attended one of the retreats about five years ago.
“I was just deeply touched,” she recalled. “I wanted to help these girls.”
Palm started off by treating one of the girls who had some reconstructive facial surgeries. She has since volunteered at another retreat and lectured at various events for Angel Faces.
Last year, Palm joined the organization’s board of directors.
“I became a doctor because I wanted to help others,” Palm said.
“Angel Faces has the ability to fundamentally shape and change a young woman’s life,” she added. “This organization helps them with life skills and shows them their possibilities. The world is their oyster.”
A Missouri native, Palm majored in biochemistry and minored in art history as an undergrad at the University of Missouri-Columbia. At first, Palm thought she would go into orthopedic surgery, but after studying dermatology, she found her path.
“I just fell in love with the field,” said Palm, who liked that dermatology involved internal medicine, pathology and surgical procedures. “I loved that it was such a visual field. I also really liked that dermatology is about establishing lifelong relationships with patients so that they can maintain healthy skin throughout their lifetime.”
Palm earned a joint medical and business degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and the Booth Graduate School of Business. She was awarded Intern of the Year and completed her dermatology residency at Rush Presbyterian-St. Lukes in Chicago, serving as chief resident in her final year of training. Palm later completed an American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery fellowship in La Jolla.
“I enjoy unveiling the best version of somebody, really being on a journey with someone,” said Palm, who also currently serves as a volunteer assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego and an affiliate staff physician at Scripps Encinitas Memorial Hospital.
To help raise awareness and funds for Angel Faces’ upcoming annual retreat for girls, Palm is planning a private fundraiser at her home this summer.
Additionally, the organization is holding its annual fundraiser, “Evening with Angels,” Sept. 16 at Cuvier Club in La Jolla. Volunteers and sponsors are needed.
“I think it’s crucial and I think it’s life-changing for so many of them,” Palm said about the girls who participate in the retreats. “I think there’s so many ways in which Angel Faces really creates a framework for day-to-day life, but also creates a network of friends that have been through similar circumstances. Many of these girls are somewhat isolated because they might be the only person at school to have suffered such an injury.”
The one-week retreat for girls 12-18 will take place June 20-26 in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Applications are available online at angelfaces.com. The application deadline is April 15. The retreat is free to participants.