Dr. Dan Hyslop is the medical director and a physician at Student Health Services (SHS) on campus. When he’s not treating students, Dr. Hyslop devotes his time to volunteering at Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Industries helps former gang members “redirect their lives” and is the “largest and most successful gang intervention, rehab and reentry program in the world and has become a model for other organizations and cities,” according to their website. LMU alumnus Father Greg Boyle S.J., M.A. ('85), founded the organization in 1988. Hyslop volunteers to remove tattoos that would otherwise prevent some of the clients from rejoining the workforce.
Hyslop recalled his own past with gangs. “I have a lot of gratitude because where I grew up, we were in a gang. I was arrested when I was 16 years old on a felony charge, I was convicted, I was on probation and only because I was under 18 was my record expunged and I was able to go onto college and medical school. You don’t go to medical school with a felony,” said Hyslop. “I go [to Homeboy Industries] because it could have just as easily been me had a couple of things not gone right for me.”
Hyslop has been volunteering at Homeboy Industries for many years. “A friend of mine was volunteering at Homeboy ... she got me down there. I went down and you just need to have a medical license ... I think there's even dentists doing it,” he said.
The removal process involves a laser that penetrates the skin and disperses the ink. Hyslop explained that the pain involved with this process is far greater than the pain people feel when they get the tattoo.
“They say it's like hot bacon grease popping on your skin,” said Hyslop about the removal process. “I’ve seen guys who’ve done hard time, real rough and tumble guys, have tears in their eyes it hurt so much."
Hyslop said that every time he has gone to Homeboy Industries, he has interacted with people whose stories changed his life.
Hyslop said that every time he has gone to Homeboy Industries, he has interacted with people who's stories changed his life changed him. “I met a young woman who was kidnapped from the high desert after cheerleading practice and she was sex trafficked around the world and she was covered in tattoos with the names of the four or five guys who trafficked her, was pregnant by one of them and was coming back to try to start her life over,” said Hyslop.
“I’m not the same after I leave there based on the people I see and the stories I hear and I’m just completely blown away,” said Hyslop.
Hyslop keeps track of some of the most “powerful” quotes from his clients. One of the quotes that stuck with him was, “Sometimes it’s harder to remove the character you’ve created than it was to create the character.” Another quote was from a man named Rabbit who described to Hyslop why he liked Homeboy Industries: “It’s like going into the yard without all the tension, like being with the people you’re comfortable with.”
“They create these characters to survive in the neighborhoods they’re in which are incredibly violent,” said Hyslop. “Most people join gangs out of desperation.”
On Hyslop’s office wall hangs a framed print of a tattoo by the artist George Perez, which Hyslop says is a reminder of his time volunteering with Homeboy Industries.