By Amy Meadows
It was 1988, and Ken Anderson was talking to the father of a friend. The young man knew he wanted to be a physician, but he also had a passion for art. He had always been the class artist in grade school, and his parents purchased a drafting table for him in the eighth grade. He seriously considered pursuing art as a career, but "I didn't want to be a starving artist," he says. That's when his friend's father opened his eyes to an interesting option. "He said, 'You want to be a doctor, and you like to draw. You should consider being a plastic surgeon,'" Anderson recalls. It sounded like a perfect fit: the ability to have a career in medicine while enjoying the artistic nature of facial plastic surgery.
Anderson received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He then completed seven years of specialty surgical training, including a residency in ENT surgery and a fellowship in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center. But the double board-certified plastic surgeon realized something. "Facial plastic surgery is not very artistic. It's technical," he reveals. "All facial plastic surgery – from facelifts to nose jobs – is landmark-based surgery. There's a certain place to start the incision, you go skin deep and then you focus on how much tension you are putting on the suture. It's very technical, but I felt it just was not artistic."
In 2003, though, everything changed for Anderson, who today is the founder and director of the Anderson Hair Sciences Center. "I discovered hair restoration," he says. "It required a sense of artistic talent in terms of designing hairlines. A man who is losing his hair loses the frame to his face. With hair restoration, I have to look at the shape of the face. There are no guideposts. Without any landmarks, I have to draw a hairline. I have to look at it and get creative. And people are like snowflakes. No two hairlines are the same, and no two hair loss patterns are the same." What's more, hair restoration allowed Anderson to employ his many years of surgical training, thanks to the technical nature of the non-invasive Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) method; it involves removing hairs from the back of the head, which are immune to the molecular receptors that cause balding, and placing them into sites on top of the head, where those permanent hairs will continue to grow as if they are still in the permanent hair zone. The challenge is not only to make sure that the relocated hair looks as if it has always been there, but also that any scars on the back of the head from the hair removal are virtually undetectable.
For several years, Anderson practiced hair restoration in Beverly Hills. During that time, he also worked as a commissioned medical illustrator, designing and creating detailed pen-and-ink medical illustrations for scholarly book chapters and journal articles. In 2008, Emory Healthcare recruited him as Division Chief of Hair Restoration in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. And in 2011, he opened the Anderson Hair Sciences Center, a state-of-the-art boutique practice that is dedicated to the field of hair restoration surgery. What makes the center so unique is that, unlike other plastic surgery practices, hair restoration is the sole offering. "This is not a menu item on a website for us. This is all we do," Anderson states. "I am the only board-certified plastic surgeon in Georgia who does hair restoration full time. I am a surgeon and artist who has a dedicated career and practice to treat hair loss in men and women with an emphasis on natural, full results, patient comfort and overall patient care."
Anderson is supported by a full-time staff of highly trained technicians, who have a combined 45 years of experience. "It gives me tremendous peace of mind to have such an experienced staff," he says. Together, the staff uses the most cutting-edge technology, which Anderson says has changed hair restoration surgery. "People are reluctant to come to a doctor for hair restoration because they're afraid of bad hair transplant jobs," he notes. "But this is not your father's hair surgery. These are not hair plugs. There have been quantum leaps in technology that have come onto the scene. It's worth an hour to come down and check it out. And patients meet with me every time they come in. I personally show them how we apply traditional medical principles and today's technology to hair restoration surgery."
Anderson's concentration on hair restoration surgery has allowed him to stand out in the field. In 2004, he set a world record for the most single follicles extracted in one hair restoration procedure using a small biopsy punch. He also has become a sought-after lecturer and, in 2012, received the Okinawa Award for a presentation about FUE procedures delivered to the Japan Society for Clinical Hair Restoration. Additionally, Anderson is the only surgeon in Georgia to offer the ARTAS Robot Assisted FUE System, which his practice received in 2013 after a rigorous interview process and with which he is able to transplant hair without any linear or noticeable scarring, using no scalpels or stitches and providing a dramatically shorter recovery period for patients. Most recently, Anderson was nominated for the 2015 Doctors' Choice Award for Plastic Surgery.
"I love the artistic demands and creativity of this job," Anderson concludes. "Most of all, I love how happy the patients are. We all have hair, and when you lose it, it's distressing – for men and women. There's a psychology behind hair restoration. It's absolutely transformational. When you give a man or a woman back their hair, when you give them back their natural appearance, it brings such happiness. I've never seen happier patients. And I enjoy doing the procedures. It's a fun career that I've created for myself."