Restoring Hope 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
t 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.
City Life Magazine
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. “A lot of it was not about front teeth. It was about neglect. They were dealing with so many things,” adds Dr. Yasmin www.mycitylife.ca
PHOTOS BY ROBIN GARTNER
Written By Rebecca Alberico