What is the Face to Face Reconstructive Surgery Project

For many victims of domestic abuse, emotional healing is only one part of moving forward with life. They’ve also suffered injuries that disfigure and sometimes prevent them from leading anything resembling a normal life.

The Face to Face project is one component of the Educational and Research Foundation for the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). A 501(c)3 charitable organization, the Foundation was founded in 1974 to encourage study, research and scientific advancement of facial plastic surgery and related sciences. It seeks to improve the skills of facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons all over the world.

The Face to Face National Domestic Violence Project offers the services of surgeons, nurses, speech pathologists and anesthesiologists who donate their time to children and adults overseas. A lesser-known effort is the assistance they provide to U.S. victims of domestic abuse. Unlike projects that target medical needs in certain communities, Face to Face treats just one person and just one face at a time.

The current chairman of this project is Dr. Andrew Jacono, a facial plastic surgeon based in New York. Medical volunteers use their expertise to treat injuries and deformities of the head and neck region as well as those of the face.

The AAFPRS Foundation bills itself as the first surgical group to take a firm stand and get involved in helping the victims of domestic violence to break its cycle, enhance their self-esteem and start rebuilding their lives. Many of these victims lack the financial ability to pay to have the damage to their faces repaired. Face to Face medical volunteers offer eligible victims pro bono consultation and surgery through the National Domestic Violence Project.

Face to Face recognizes that plastic surgery alone won’t wipe out the emotional scars of the victims of domestic abuse. The organization takes the position that healing must happen within before surgery can erase any physical scars and return the victim to a sense of wholeness. As a result, it has partnered with shelters across the United States.

A year after victims are able to get out of an abusive relationship, they are eligible to be evaluated for reconstructive surgery. The goal is always to free injured individuals from the daily reminder of the abuse they endured.

The surgeries volunteers perform are sometimes complex. They often rebuild mangled faces by using bone and cartilage from other parts of the body. Injuries such as smashed noses, cigarette burns and depressed eye sockets are common. Three hundred U.S. physicians currently donate their time to the Face to Face project.

The volunteer program maintains a toll-free telephone number: 1-800-842-4546.