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Health Law Intern Partners with Restoring Smiles for Increased Dental Health Care in Ontario

June 16, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Press Release June 15, 2017 The Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation: Restoring Smiles project is a charitable network of dentists and physicians who provide free treatment to female survivors of domestic violence in the Greater Toronto Area. For Restoring Smiles, every day is a day to empower women. This summer the organization has partnered with Natasha Novac, Osgoode Hall law student and recipient of the James Kreppner Health Law Internship in Patient Rights/ Advocacy, to work on external advocacy initiatives geared at improving public access to dental care for survivors. In Ontario, public health plans do not include dental care for adults. Alternative public health plans, such as Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), include coverage for dental treatment that is minimal and often insufficient. The inaccessibility of public coverage for dental care disproportionately affects low-income Ontarians, including survivors of domestic violence. Novac is the recipient of the James Kreppner Health Law Internship in Patient Rights/ Advocacy at Osgoode Hall Law School, a summer internship that enables law students to advocate for social change in the health care field. Novac said, “Through developing an advocacy strategic plan, connecting with community health advocacy organizations and raising public awareness around dental care accessibility, I intend to organize Restoring Smiles’ efforts to advocate for increased dental health care in Ontario.” The Toronto-based Restoring Smiles was founded by five University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry alumnae – Dr. Tina Meisami, Dr. Shiva Shadmand, Dr. Maureen Fenn, Dr. Renu Varshney and Dr. Yasmin Mawji. It grew out of the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation’s commitment to honour the work and humanitarian efforts of Dr. Borna Meisami, a compassionate surgeon deeply concerned about women’s social issues. Through the philanthropic work of dental treatment providers and generous community sponsors, services provided by project personnel help survivors of domestic violence rediscover their self-confidence by restoring their smiles, empowering them to move forward and to reclaim their lives after abuse. “Our foundation’s vision and mission is to restore confidence in women who have survived domestic violence by addressing more than just the physical effects of abuse,” says Dr. Tina Meisami. “Our services extend beyond repairing purely functional issues with missing and debilitated dentition as we are able to empower these women to reclaim and uplift their lives and the lives of their children.” As a Canada Revenue Agency-registered charity, the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation is focused on expanding the Restoring Smiles’ services to meet the needs of female survivors of abuse. Since it’s founding in 2010, the Dr. Borna Meisami Foundation has provided over $500,000 worth of restorative treatment for patients, most of whom live in shelters in the greater Toronto area, St. Catherines and Ottawa. “Restoring a woman’s smile has an incredibly powerful effect on her overall physical and mental health,” says Dr. Tina Meisami. “It is inspiring to know that our work not only reconstructs the patients’ ability to regain their full facial and dental function, but also improves their

Restoring Hope – Dr. Tina Meisami

April 10, 2017
Project Restoring Smiles offers dental care at no cost to survivors of domestic violence. Its founder, Dr. Tina Meisami, and team of dedicated medical professionals talk about their passion for the project – and the role self-confidence plays on the road to female empowerment. At one point or another, everyone experiences loss — of a loved one, a friend or an acquaintance. It changes us, and sometimes inspires us. When Toronto-based oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Tina Meisami lost her beloved brother, Dr. Borna Meisami, she lost her guardian, role model and biggest supporter. The world lost an accomplished orthopedic surgeon, a compassionate feminist and a dedicated advocate for women’s rights. It was through her grief that Dr. Meisami came to understand that she needed to honour her brother by continuing his legacy as a humanitarian. Since its inception in 2011, the Dr. Borna Meisami Foundation has been dedicated to Project Restoring Smiles, a program that offers professional dental care at no cost to women who’ve experienced abuse, helping them regain their oral health and self-confidence by restoring their smiles. Sadly, the need for these services is great. According to Statistics Canada, on any given night in Canada, roughly 3,491 women and their 2,724 children are sleeping in shelters because it is unsafe at home. Of these women, five in 10 have reported being physically injured. Visible trauma to their mouths can be considerable and, given the accompanying emotional suffering, it’s only part of their pain. “It wasn’t until I lost Borna that I realized how lucky I was to have a role model and supporter like him, because most people don’t have that at all,” says Dr. Meisami. “I hoped [with the foundation] I would create that sense of security, the sense that someone’s got your back. I think it’s incredible to be able to provide that for these women living in shelters who are at a dead end.” The charitable foundation that fuels Project Restoring Smiles is overseen by Dr. Meisami and a dedicated team of doctors in the field of dentistry and works directly with women’s shelters across the Greater Toronto Area. All of the doctors involved work on a volunteer basis, running their own practices full-time while dedicating their personal time to contributing their expertise and resources to helping women who have experienced abuse. Dr. Meisami admits that initially the team faced a number of obstacles in linking up the project with shelters. For the safety of residents, for instance, there were strict security protocols to follow. So the surgeon and her team made dozens of cold calls, visiting the shelters in person, before finding the first five to participate; now the project has approximately 25 affiliations. Emotions run high as the doctors recall their first experiences meeting shelter residents, who were often there with young children. “Even though you know and read about [abuse] and you’re aware, it’s something else to see for yourself, as a care provider, the impact of abuse,” says Dr. Meisami.
News Press Release

Toronto Celebrating International Women’s Day and the Sixth Anniversary of Project Restoring Smiles

March 6, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Press Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           March 6, 2017 Toronto Celebrating International Women’s Day and the Sixth Anniversary of Project Restoring Smiles – Dr. Borna Meisami Foundation: Helping Female Survivors of Domestic Violence Restore a smile. Empower a woman. Reclaim her life. Video link:  http://www.drbmeisamifoundation.com/2016/03/07/video-project-restoring-smiles/ Location: Join us for interviews and photo opportunities Tuesday, March 7 at 6:00 p.m. Project Restoring Smiles’ new office at 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 3500 Toronto, ON M4W 1A8 in the Hudson’s Bay Centre by Bloor and Yonge Officially celebrated on March 8 around the world, it’s a day of action to empower women and, in particular, to elevate female survivors of domestic violence. March 8, 2017, also commemorates the sixth anniversary of Project Restoring Smiles, a charitable network of dentists and physicians who provide free treatment to survivors of domestic violence. This past year, along with expanding their services to aid even more women, Project Restoring Smiles is proud to announce that they received a multi-year grant, representing $200,000 over four years, from Green Shield Canada (GSC). This grant was awarded as part of the GSC Community Giving Program which helps support organizations and initiatives that provide frontline care for underinsured or uninsured Canadians. “The Green Shield Canada grants are a tremendous opportunity to expand the services that we are able to provide and to recruit a more meaningful group of providers willing to serve and better understand the unique needs of this particular group,” says project founder, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Tina Meisami. “At GSC, corporate social responsibility is about integrating economic, social and environmental considerations into our decision-making processes and day-to-day operations while better serving the needs of our community,” says Sarah Saso, CSR-P and managing director of social innovation for GSC. The Toronto-based Project Restoring Smiles was founded by five University of Toronto faculty of dentistry alumnae – Dr. Tina Meisami, Dr. Shiva Shadmand, Dr. Maureen Fenn, Dr. Renu Varshney and Dr. Yasmin Mawji. It grew out of the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation to honour the work and humanitarian efforts of Dr. Borna Meisami, a compassionate surgeon deeply concerned about women’s social issues. Through the philanthropic work of dental treatment providers and generous community sponsors, our services help survivors of domestic violence rediscover their selfconfidence by restoring their smiles, empowering them to move forward and

U of T dentistry alumnae restore smiles for domestic abuse survivors

April 5, 2016
Women who escape violent domestic situations for the safety of shelters have few reasons to smile. But one non-profit started by alumnae of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry is offering abused women across southern Ontario the prospect of renewed confidence and well-being. The Restoring Smiles Project is a charitable network of dentists and physicians who provide free treatment to survivors of domestic violence. Patients are usually referred by shelters and are handled by the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation on a case-by-case basis. (The Foundation is named in honour of the deceased brother of founder Dr. Tina Meisami. Her brother was an orthopaedic surgeon and graduate of the U of T who died suddenly just months after turning 40.) “As a woman, I felt as though I needed to stand up for their rights,” says Dr. Meisami. “As a human being, I felt their pain. As a surgeon, I wanted to fix their oral and facial pain,” she says. Launched five years ago on International Women’s Day, the project has provided over $200,000 worth of restorative treatment to more than 45 patients, most of whom live in shelters in the GTA. The project’s motto – “Restore a smile. Empower a woman. Reclaim her life.” – speaks to the founders’ desire not only to improve oral function, but to restore self-confidence in women who have survived abuse. “It is truly an honor to treat this group of patients,” says Meisami. In addition to her charitable work as founder and chairwoman of the foundation’s board, Meisami is also the director of Dental Sleep Medicine at the U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry, and operates a private practice in Toronto. In fact, it was Meisami’s U of T connections that helped get the project started. In its formative stages, she invited four friends from the Faculty of Dentistry to launch the project: Shiva Shadmand, Maureen Fenn,Renu Varshney and Yasmin Mawji. When the project began, there were just five volunteer treatment providers in Toronto. The operation has since grown to include 18 providers in private clinics in Toronto, Ottawa and St. Catharines. Patients receive a full scope of dental treatments such as cleanings, fillings, crown and bridge, dental implants, orthodontics, root canals, extractions and surgical facial reconstruction, as well as medical treatments, such as scar revisions. Volunteers focus on eliminating pain and disease and reconstructing the patients’ function in an attempt to improve their health. True to their name, volunteers also focus on rebuilding the patients’ smiles by providing state of the art implant, orthodontic and cosmetic dentistry. The project has not only brought smiles back to its patients, but to its founder as well. “I am deeply touched by their kindness, their gratitude, their grace, and the connections we make with them,” Meisami says. Her patients might say that those same qualities describe the volunteers of Restoring Smiles. http://news.utoronto.ca/u-t-dentistry-alumni-restore-smiles-domestic-abuse-survivors

Project Restoring Smiles on CBC News

April 5, 2016
Watch the CBC’s story on Project Restoring Smiles. Coverage begins at 15:45.

Restoring Smiles: Dentist helps domestic violence victims

April 5, 2016
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=824657&playlistId=1.2809297&binId=1.815892&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

Testimonials

Dr Meisami, I would love to personally thank you for your wonderful work in the community and for the difficult surgery you successfully completed on me. You are one in a million and I wish you all the support and good fortune in life!

S.L., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I feel great. I’m even working in my favourite field. I can interact and socialize with other people now, and I am so grateful for that.

R.C., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I feel like my old self again. I’m just the way I was meant to be.

M.T., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I know I was always told, “You’re beautiful on the inside.” And I always thought, “Yes I know, but I want to get back to being beautiful on the outside.” Project Restoring Smiles let me do that.

H.M., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

Dr. Meisami changed my life. She saved my life, and I am forever grateful for this.

N.S., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I would like to thank Dr. Meisami and her team yesterday was an experience that I will never forget. I’ve been kicked, spit on, abused physical and mentally but going to your office for treatment yesterday was amazing. After everything I’ve been through you guys made me feel like a queen.The blanket , no paper bib you even take the time to wash off the patient’s face, wow. I came home and told my kids tears were running down my face. I couldn’t believe that I deserve that royal treatment. Once again thank you so much.

N.S., Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

I cannot express my gratefulness for the Restoring Smile Foundation, Doctor Meisami, Doctor Laing and everybody else involved in the Foundation. With a new smile you gave me new life, new hopes and what is most new opportunities that unfolded on my path. Now that I have a beautiful smile I can look forward to starting college. I can tackle next goals head on instead of hiding in a shadows with the fear that people would judge me. Thank all of You for bringing the sunshine back to my and my son’s lives.

Anonymous, Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation patient

Restore a Smile.
Empower a Woman.
Reclaim Her Life.

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