find a Clinician/Physician

Spotlight on Philanthropy

Kristel D. Polder, MD

New Beginnings Laser Tattoo Removal
An Interview with Kristel Polder, MD, New Beginnings provider
Reprinted with permission from Dallas Center for Dermatology and Aesthetics

It’s estimated that up to 300,000 people in the US are at risk of being the victims of sex trafficking, many of whom get “branded” with tattoos that remain constant reminders of their traumatic experience even after they’re rescued. In 2022, the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS) began offering survivors of sex trafficking laser tattoo removal treatments provided by qualified providers as a pro bono service.

Help for Sex Trafficking Survivors
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kristel Polder is among the network of physicians who perform laser tattoo removal through the New Beginnings program. The program includes physicians nationwide, but its services are particularly helpful in Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where there are higher rates of human trafficking. Traffickers brand victims with tattoos that signify ownership and that they’re for sale.

According to the ASLMS, trafficking survivors who have either completed or are actively participating in a rehabilitation program or recovery support group affiliated with the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance can take advantage of the laser tattoo removal program. They must provide documentation from their case manager stating they are a sex trafficking survivor at a safe and appropriate stage of recovery to undergo tattoo removal.

In this question-and-answer interview, Dr. Polder explains how she became involved with New Beginnings and why offering this service is so important to her as a physician.

How did you first hear about the New Beginnings Laser Tattoo Removal program?
I first heard about it through one of my mentors, Dr. Paul Friedman (the 2022-23 president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery). Dr. Friedman, who practices in Houston, said the program was having an incredible impact in Houston, and he invited me to join the program as a provider.

What influenced your decision to become a provider?
I wanted to make a difference in the lives of women (and men) in the Dallas area. I had read about a 15-year-old girl who was abducted during a Dallas Mavericks game, which became a national news story. She was drugged and found 10 days later in an Oklahoma City hotel room. I cannot fathom the horrible things she experienced. After I asked more questions regarding trafficking in general, I learned that this happens every day—every hour of the day—to children all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area.

It’s a daunting problem. It’s scary and so dangerous. It affects all socioeconomic classes, all races and spans both girls and boys. I wanted to do my small part to help these individuals heal and slowly take back their lives.

“Laser tattoo removal of this shameful reminder of being branded that I live with every day has been emancipating. I’m not sure people realize how imprisoning a brand can be—it chains a piece of you to the darkness forever.” -Trafficking survivor

Can you describe a situation or patient who you’ve treated?
I recently treated a young woman in her early 30s who was trafficked about 10 years ago. She was drugged and then became an addict. She was later arrested for drug possession. She was trafficked by her boyfriend, something that happens frequently. A trusted person, usually a significant other, lures them under the false pretense of love and a relationship. I was able to build rapport and trust after a few treatments, and she opened up and discussed something that was obviously traumatic and painful.

How many laser treatments are needed to remove tattoos?
Fading tattoos require an average of 6 to 10 treatments. Whether the tattoo was created by an amateur or professional and the number of colors involved are factors that influence how many treatments are needed. The more complicated a tattoo is, the more treatments are needed to clear the different colors. Different laser wavelengths treat different colors. Black is typically easier to fade than green or blue. Orange and red are the most difficult to treat.

What happens during a laser tattoo removal treatment?
For small tattoos, we first numb the area with a local anesthetic. If the tattoo covers a larger surface area, we use a strong topical cream to numb the area, using saran wrap occlusion for better penetration. We usually schedule treatments about 4 to 6 weeks apart. Multiple treatment sessions are always needed, and we provide patients with post-treatment instructions.

Learn more about the New Beginnings Program

Doris Day, MD

Doris Day, MD

Member, Task Force on New Beginnings

How have you used your unique set of skills to change lives with lasers for those who are underserved?  When did you first get started?
I have been helping to remove tattoos and treat scars from patients who have had radiation or been victims of abuse. I have also treated burn scars with CO2 lasers, for over 15 years. 

What philanthropy work are you most proud of? 
Being able to make a difference and watch the impact it has on the lives of my patients. I see their confidence increase and, for many patients they finally have relief from both physical and emotional pain.

Is there a particular patient that you have worked on that was inspiring or sparked your interest in growing your philanthropy work? 
I had a patient who survived a house fire. They used the oven to heat the house because the heat had been turned off. She had severe itch and pain in the scars and her skin was disfigured. We were able to give her relief and also improve the appearance of the scars. 

What does the New Beginnings Program mean to you?
It means being able to reach more people who need us. We are here and willing to help but making the connection is not always easy. I'm happy to be able to participate and look forward to meeting those who would benefit from the work I do.

What are you currently working on?  Are there any other philanthropy projects you'd like to share and why it is important to you?
I am a mentor for a program called Same Sky (we all live under the same sky). They help women who have been incarcerated get back on their feet and they also help women from Rowanda who were victims of the genocide there. They give a hand up, not a hand out. My current mentee is in nursing school and has come a very long way. I'm so proud of her and know that her patients will be lucky to have her caring for them.

Tina S. Alster, MD

Tina S. Alster, MD

Member, Task Force on New Beginnings

How have you used your unique set of skills to change lives with lasers for those who are underserved?  When did you first get started?
I have been using lasers to treat traumatic scars since 1989 and have partnered with Burn Survivors Throughout the World as well as other organizations (e.g., Innocents At Risk) to provide complimentary laser treatments to individuals who could not afford to pay for reparative services.

Tina Alster, MD with Burn Scar PatientIs there a particular patient that you have worked on that was inspiring or sparked your interest in growing your philanthropy work? 
I have worked with so many inspiring patients- from those who suffered burn scars in the Pentagon during 9/11 to women who have suffered domestic abuse and/or been trafficked.

What does the New Beginnings Program mean to you?
It is a wonderful way for ASLMS members to use their skills to help those in need.

What are you currently working on?  Are there any other philanthropy projects you'd like to share and why it is important to you?
I have been actively working with a woman who suffered extensive face and body burns when her (ex) husband entered her place of work and literally set her on fire.

Lesley Clark-Loeser

Lesley Clark-Loeser, MD

Member, Task Force on New Beginnings

How have you used your unique set of skills to change lives with lasers for those who are underserved?  When did you first get started?
My honoring survivors initiative began approximately 7 years ago when we opened Precision Skin Institute.  This was an effort to offer compassionate care/treatment to breast cancer survivors for their surgical scars, irradiated skin, and radiation tattoos.  This effort has been both successful and hugely fulfilling and has forged some beautiful long-lasting relationships. The principal devices I have used are the VBeam, Co2re, and PicoWay.  

What philanthropy work are you most proud of? 
Both Precision Skin Institute Honors Survivors Initiative and serving on my daughter’s nonprofit organization, Shield With Care.  Her nonprofit aims to provide both sun protection and education to at-risk populations in South Florida, namely our homeless and migrant communities. 

What does the New Beginnings Program mean to you?
So much!!!!  To play any role in alleviating the burden or bad memories of a trafficking brand and assisting in a new beginning for these brave and deserving individuals is everything.  It is a beautiful way to serve as a healer in our field.


The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Inc. is the world’s largest scientific organization dedicated to promoting research, education and high standards of clinical care in the field of medical laser applications. It provides a forum for the exchange of scientific information and participation in communicating the latest developments in laser medicine and surgery to clinicians, research investigators, government and regulatory agencies, and the public.

Connect with ASLMS!