History of the ABHRS

In June 1995 at the Hair Replacement Surgery Seminar in Chicago, Dr. Shelly Friedman, a seminar speaker and medical advisor to the American Hair Loss Council (AHLC), and Anthony Santangelo, president of the American Hair Loss Council, began discussing the need for a certifying board in both surgical (hair restoration surgery) and nonsurgical hair replacement (hair attachment and hair systems).  Around this time, the Federal Trade Commission began reviewing cosmetic advertisements and claims regarding surgical and nonsurgical hair restoration.  With the realization that if professionals did not police their profession that the government would interfere and mandate onerous rules and restrictions, the decision was made to present a detailed plan for forming two boards: one for surgeons performing hair transplantation and the other for nonsurgical hair replacement technicians.

The individual plans authored by Dr. Friedman for surgical hair restoration and Mr. Santangelo for nonsurgical hair replacement were submitted to the board of directors of the AHLC.  The board accepted Dr. Friedman’s proposal and offered to sponsor an organizational meeting with the leaders in the field of hair restoration surgery.  The board did not accept the proposal for a nonsurgical hair replacement certification since they believed such an endeavor would be too divisive and exclusionary for their members.

With the financial backing of the AHLC, Dr. Friedman sent invitation letters to the presidents of all of the physician organizations whose members perform hair restoration surgery: the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS), the World Association for Hair Restoration Surgery (WAHRS), the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS), and the American Hair Loss Council (AHLC).  Each organization or society was asked to recommend three hair restoration surgeons to attend an organizational meeting to discuss the format, logistics, and financial commitment to form a certifying board in hair restoration surgery.

On June 10, 1996, the organizational meeting for a hair replacement surgery certification examination was held at the Hotel Intercontinental in New York City.  At the culmination of this meeting, the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery (ABHRS) was created.  Each of the societies represented at this meeting agreed that their organization would accept and recognize this board as the only board certification focusing strictly on hair restoration surgery.

The first formal board meeting was held in Nashville on September 20, 1996.  Officers were elected and committee chairpersons were appointed.  The founding officers of the ABHRS were the following:

  • President: Shelly A. Friedman, D. O.
  • Vice President: Matt L. Leavitt, D. O.
  • Secretary: James E. Arnold, M. D.
  • Treasurer: Carlos J. Puig, D. O.

Each director donated $4,000 initially to fund the Board until examination fees and membership fees could cover operational expenses.  Since the board of directors were responsible for writing all of the examination questions (both written and oral questions), the directors were granted a “grandfathered” diplomate status with the caveat that they sit for the recertification examination in ten years.

The first examination of the ABHRS was held on December 6, 1997, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport Hotel.

The Founding Board of Directors of the ABHRS were the following surgeons:

  • James Arnold, M.D.
  • Dominic Brandy, M.D.
  • Robert Cattani, M.D.
  • Bernard Cohen, M.D.
  • Shelly Friedman, D.O.
  • Raymond Konior, M.D.
  • Matt Leavitt, D.O.
  • Robert Leonard, D.O.
  • Bobby Limmer, M.D.
  • Carlos Puig, D.O.
  • Daniel Rousso, M.D.
  • Richard Shiell, M.D.
  • Dow Stough, M.D.
  • Martin Unger, M.D.
  • Walter Unger, M.D.
  • O’Tar Norwood, M.D., Director Emeritus
  • Norman Orentrich, M.D., Director Emeritus

Peter Canalia, J.D., was hired as Executive Director and the organization was incorporated in the state of Illinois shortly thereafter.