I'm proud to present the conclusion of the Hair Transplant Documentary series featuring Dr. Jerry Cooley and his FUE repair patient that was so kind to allow me to document his procedure from beginning to end. This was a fun shoot and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Haircenter and getting to watch Dr. Cooley and his team in action. Now that we're at the end of this portion of my videos series with Dr. Cooley I can talk more about what it was that I liked about Dr. Cooley and why he's a member of the Hair Transplant Mentor™ team.
First, about this case. This patient was fairly local to Dr. Cooley in that he lives in the Carolinas and had undergone a hair transplant with an FUE clinic but the clinic used technicians that were apparently flown in for the patient's procedure. This is a common practice with many clinics because they don't have the staff or the infrastructure to deal with hair transplant patients. They usually hire contractors through a service, or through the company that sold them the FUE machine, and they fly in to perform the entire procedure on behalf of the doctor. They make their money and leave and the doctor makes his money without lifting a finger. It's a strong business model except for those two little nagging problems that tends to get in the way; ethics and accountability. These clinics are throwing the doctor/patient relationship out the window in the name of money and ultimately the doctor can blame the techs for any mistakes that are made since they aren't in the clinic to defend themselves. I'm not saying this happens a lot, but it happens more than is necessary for sure.
This patient had received 2000 follicular units in his first FUE procedure and three problems arose from his experience.
- The hairline grafts did not grow well and those that did grow were fairly obvious in that the directions were incorrect and they were thicker than the neighboring native hairs so they looked pluggy.
- The grafts placed into the crown did not grow at all. You can see in his before photo that the crown is barren with very little hair present.
- The donor zone was obviously affected in a negative manner. The scarring was caused by oversized punches and they were preventing the patient from cutting his hair very short, which is the point of FUE to begin with. Thankfully, they did not take all 200 grafts from a small area, thinning out one spot, but I also can't say that 2000 attempts were even made in the first place which is probably a good thing for the patient.
So as these things usually unfold the patient wasn't happy and as he told me in person, it had really affected his self confidence. I know this is a cliche' but these situations can be emotionally devastating. I should know. He did some research and found Dr. Cooley for his repair procedure and this is how we came to meet on his surgery day. I was with the patient from the very beginning, before he even met Dr. Cooley for the morning. Dr. Cooley came into the lobby to see the patient and they sat down to have a preliminary discussion but then he took the patient into a private office for a more personal discussion. The patient really opened up about what was bothering him with his work but it wasn't anything that he was surprising us with. His anxieties and problems are not uncommon. Dr. Cooley then took his photos, then took a LONG time to draw a hairline, then took some more photos for comparison. Dr. Cooley has a technique for hairline design that I found interesting and it's shown in the 2nd episode of this series.
Then it was time for surgery and the patient was sent into the OR after he changed into his surgical top. His head was shaved and we looked closely at his previous work, which was as I described earlier. This was the first time I got to see the donor scarring which was really pronounced due to the hair length. I was truly wondering just how many grafts Dr. Cooley was going to be able to get so I was watching everything very closely. The first phase of the procedure started with the FUE extractions. Dr. Cooley and his assistant Brandi took their time to really get to understand his donor zone and the challenges that it presented. The formulated a plan and got to work, carefully taking only just enough grafts between scars to get what they needed without compromising the density too much further. Once this was done they took a break and then the patient was instructed to sit up as they changed the bed into a sort of dental chair. Before incisions were to made to place the grafts they were going to have to do something about the old grafts that were growing from his first procedure. Dr. Cooley decided that some of the work could be camouflaged and the rest could be removed with electrolysis. This was going to be fascinating for me to watch for two reasons. I hadn't ever seen such an approach taken before and in my years working in hair transplant clinics I was told that it was a bad idea to remove grafts in the hairline while trying to rebuild it at the same time. The approach would usually be to remove the grafts, then let it heal for four months, then come back for the new transplant. Not here! Dr. Cooley expertly maneuvered the electrolysis handle to get only certain grafts and when it was all done the patient had a couple of dozen small holes in his hairline. I was told, and later saw, that these holds heal very quickly and it was confirmed to me by the patient a few weeks later that they were gone in about a week or less. Then the incisions were made by Dr. Cooley and then he and Brandi placed every graft throughout the rest of the day and into the night. In fact, they didn't finish till 11 pm, which made this about a thirteen hour ordeal!
What I observed beyond the surgery, that made me realize that Dr. Cooley is HTM material, is how he spends time with the patients and the sense I gained that he and his staff look at this as being far more than a job. Brandi and Amy especially really went above and beyond to take care of the patient and they weren't being fake or putting on a show for my benefit, either. This is the real deal. I also know that the clinic overall takes communications seriously and they have a strong follow up system with their patients and Dr. Cooley will call patients from time to time to check in on them even when the staff has already been consistent with their own follow up calls and emails.
I also was looking closely at how the team in general interacted with each other, not just the staff that patients interact with most but the technicians that work in the background as well. They didn't seem preoccupied with random banter about their previous night's activities or any daily drama. In fact, Dr. Cooley has a strict "no chit chat" rule in his OR while he's working, which I respect. I was also wandering from microscope to microscope and asked to peer at their work so I could get a sense of the amount of waste that was being produced and how the grafts looked when trimmed and refined. All of what I saw was top notch.
I was observing the infection prevention protocols to make sure Dr. Cooley wasn't breathing into the patient's open donor wounds. I've seen this in the past and I've even seen cases where this kind of behavior has been suspect in passing on a bug to a patient during surgery which caused a persistent infection that caused postoperative problems. That's bad enough on it's own but I've also seen doctors not own up to these issues and even blame their staff. It's not pretty so I've been fairly traumatized by such behavior which is why I don't overlook such careless behavior. I'm happy to report that Dr. Cooley and his staff don't cut corners on this and always have the patient's, and their own, safety in mind during interactions.
Finally, Dr. Cooley is a true researcher in the field of hair restoration and comes from a research background. He didn't stumble into hair restoration as a side business or as an alternative when he got tired of his primary specialty. He trained in hair restoration while still in medical school and combined his research and experimental background with his surgical training, which has put him at the forefront of hair loss research. This has allowed Dr. Cooley to be one of the foremost experts in beard hair transplantation as well as PRP and PRP with ACell treatments. He is only a one man show so he doesn't have funding from large corporations but his advances have really helped the field overall and he's routinely asked to assist or advise on larger research projects in the cloning and hair multiplication arena. Good things are coming in the future, they just have to be worked out the right way!
So with all the above said and of course from all the footage I've shot and edited over the past year, I hope you can see why Dr. Cooley is, in my opinion, not only welcome as an HTM member but also a world class hair restoration physician with few peers.