2015 ISHRS Meeting
Another year and another ISHRS meeting has come to a close. This year it was in Chicago, Illinois at the Chicago Hilton in downtown. This years event was recognized as having the highest attendance of any previous ISHRS meeting in it's 23 year history which is a very big accomplishment. The Chicago Hilton was more than adequate for handling such an event as it has 1544 rooms. It is a massive facility with multiple convention rooms on different levels. This year's event was a bit different for me personally as it is the first meeting I've attended without being a consultant for a clinic so the amount of attention I was getting was different, both in the volume of attention and the kind of attention. Thankfully, it was all positive:) I was happy to see a lot of faces I've known throughout the years but I was also fortunate to make new acquaintances during my many discussions during the ISHRS meeting
My time was spent mainly interacting with doctors and manufacturer representatives sharing and telling me about their products, and there were a lot of products at this ISHRS meeting. Among them were three FUE machines including of course the famous ARTAS robotic FUE system but also the SMARTGraft and the ATERA FUE systems respectively. Both of the latter systems are mimics of the famous NEOGraft system that so many people mistakenly reference as a "technique". The SMARTGraft first made it's debut in 2013 at the ISHRS meeting in San Francisco as a prototype not yet ready for action and the unit shown in Chicago still was not ready but they promised it would be soon. Comparing the two versions of the SMARTGraft would show to completely different looking machines but the concept is the same in that it boasts of a "wet" extraction system that prevents the grafts from being exposed to the powerful air suction associated with the NeoGraft system. This is obviously a benefit but I cannot vouch for it's efficacy.
Was Anything New Shared at the ISHRS Meeting?
There was also the ATERA FUE system which caught my eye for a few reasons. Upon first glance it is obviously a much more compact system than the SMARTGraft or the NeoGraft systems as it appears to be half the size of each respectively. Second, the price for this system is far lower at roughly fiftey thousand dollars per machine. The way these systems make their money, aside from the basic cost per machine, is that they use a system for their consumables similar to what is found in the printer/copier industry. In order for the ATERA system to work the operator has to install a "card" that has a code that unlocks the machine. This code is good for a set amount of time that the operator much complete the procedure within before the machine shuts down. This insures a recurring revenue model for the manufacturer which makes sense since one can only expect to sell so many of these machines before revenue drops and stock holders get antsy. What I do like about this system is that it was designed and is being manufactured in Washington State, just outside of Seattle and is not being manufactured offshore just to save costs. The company that builds the ATERA system has been in the dental device industry for forty years and they have an in house design and engineering team that worked closely with a few hair restoration clinics to refine the design. I'm not endorsing this product at all, I'm just saying I can appreciate the route they've taken. If the machine works well or not is another story which I am not prepared to answer but as with all things the tool is only as good as the hand that wields it.
I'll be honest here, the majority of the hair related devices that were available in the vendor section of the ISHRS meeting were pretty silly and several of them focused on lotions, lasers, doodads and gadgets. There was one booth with two women from the UK selling a turn-key scalp micropigmentation system with a machine that they fully admit is nothing more than a permanent makeup machine. Dr. Larry Shapiro was in attendance with his "Hair Shake" line of protein based hair rejuvenation drinks which, oddly enough, I had a lot of doctors tell me they like. It's not something I would have normally thought had a chance of being legitimate but I spoke with Dr. Shapiro about it at length and he had some interesting points and references for it's efficacy. I was also able to talk to Ertip from Istanbul. Ertip is a small business that apparently makes some of the best FUE punches in the world. I met them on my first and second journey to Istanbul and they appear to be genuinely nice people that believe in their product.
Of course, I was able to see a lot of doctors I've known for a long time and I got to meet many new doctors, some I've heard of, some I've not, as well. One of the doctors I had never met was a plastic surgeon from Central America. We were standing at the same table during one of the many lecture breaks and I asked him how long he'd been performing hair transplant surgery. He replied that he had never performed a single hair transplant procedure in his life but he's been a successful plastic surgeon and wished to transform his clinic into a hair transplant only clinic. I had to think about what he just said and when I asked for clarification he acknowledged that his plan was to take a course for a week and then start performing FUE exclusively. I was not only shocked I was also offended and I asked him point blank why he thought this was a good plan. He asked me, "how hard can it be? It's just moving hair", and it was a shocking blast of reality of how some doctors just don't get it. I told him point blank that it was because of doctors like him that I do what I do and that I thought he was not only incredibly naive but he was also likely to cause more harm than good for the foreseeable future and that he'd be doing the world a favor by choosing to just quit medicine in general. He didn't like this a bit but I wasn't really in a position to coddle his ego. I then just walked away because I can't stand to even be near people like that.
Thankfully there were some better doctors in attendance at this ISHRS meeting that I enjoyed speaking with including Dr. Christian Bisanga. A mutual friend told me that Dr. Bisanga had been looking for me so it was nice to finally shake the man's hand. Dr. Bisanga was one of the first better recognized doctors in northern Europe during the past several years and he has done a lot for elevating the industry as a whole. He has a loyal online following of patients that believe in him and his work.
Dr. Farjo came over to speak with me while I was at the Beauty Medical booth and he showed me his wicked new shaved hair style which is the best look I've ever seen on him. It suits him perfectly and I think it is the best hair style I've seen on him since I met him in 2004. Dr. Jerry Cooley of Charlotte, North Carolina was looking dapper as usual and it was neat to listen in on his conversations about holding solutions. Dr. Cooley is single handedly responsible for the industry wide move to Hypothermosol holding solutions for graft storage as well as the introduction of ATP. Don't get confused, he didn't invent or develop these products, he simply was the first to recognize their potential for improving graft survival and the increased quality and speed of regrowth.
I was happy to be able to spend a lot of time with more doctors such as Dr. Emre Karadeniz of Istanbul. Dr. K is a top notch individual and this trip allowed me to continue getting to know one of the doctors that I feel will be a fixture in the industry for years to come. Of course there were other doctors I was able to spend time with including Dr. Tejinder Bhatti of India, Dr. John Cole, Dr. Chiara Insalaco of Rome, Italy, Dr. Rahal, Dr. Ron Shapiro, the newest HTM Partner doctor Dr. Jerry Cooley, as well as Dr. Robin Unger and Janna Schafer from Shapiro Medical .
At the end of each annual ISHRS meeting there is a gala dinner and awards ceremony. This year was a bit different as the ISHRS finally recognized the contributions of Dr. Shojui Okuda, the true father of surgical hair restoration and FUE, and awarded him the ISHRS Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously. The ISHRS invited Dr. Okuda's family members, his sone and his great granddaughter, to Chicago to accept the award on behalf of the Okuda family. I've written about Dr. Okuda and I have to say that I felt honored to have met some of Dr. Okuda's family. I was able to have some time to speak with his granddaughter but our time was cut short due to the fact that she and her family were the stars of the evening so everyone else wanted their turn for photos but it was all great fun and I was glad to have had the opportunity to meet them.
Next year I plan on attending the lectures as much as possible. I do have some information to share at a later time but this post was basically meant to just give you a small description of my time at the ISHRS meeting. There was much more to it actually, with me standing on my feet from 7am to about 2am every day as I was in meetings and discussions every day. The good thing about this meeting is that I was able to discuss ideas with Hair Transplant Mentor™ partner doctors and this has allowed me to move forward with a pretty big development that I'm sure will cause a stir in the online world. Stay tuned as more information becomes available.