Growth Industry
The Gallagher Medical Institute gives patients new hair and new life
by Bill Donahue

The biblical figure Samson rather famously lost his power when his flowing locks of hair were taken from him. John Oppeltz, and millions of Americans like him, can relate.


In his 35 years in the hair-styling and salon business, Oppeltz has seen his share of men and women who are nervously clinging to their remaining strands, hoping and praying their hair loss gets no worse. For a time, Oppeltz was one of those people, so he knows all too well how the threat of baldness can hurt one’s confidence and self-image.


Although he was once quite thin on top, today Oppeltz has a full head of hair—his own mane of real, natural hair—and he has Dr. Joseph Gallagher to thank.


“I met Joe through a friend of mine who had had a procedure done, and even then I was amazed at how good it looked,” Oppeltz says. “I finally got up the guts to do it and have had two procedures done, and now I have living, growing hair on my head again. The hair that he transferred will never die; I’ll have it forever. Now I want it to be perfect, so I might go back for a third.


“Joe does follicle transfers instead of plugs, and it looks very natural. In my line of work, you see a lot of bad procedures, but what Joe does is light years from where it was 10 or 15 years ago. There’s no reason you can’t look the best you possibly can.”


Dr. Gallagher, the founder and medical director of the Bala Cynwyd-based Gallagher Medical Institute (GMI), has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in hair transplantation and restoration, with more than 20 years of experience. GMI specializes in hair-grafting techniques, specifically the transfer of microscopic follicular units from donor areas (places on the head with good hair) to so-called recipient areas that have stopped growing hair. Dr. Gallagher can also repair prior hair transplants.


“People are happy to come here, because they’re coming here for a reason,” says Dr. Gallagher, who has been named a “Top Doctor” multiple times by several respected local publications, including Suburban Life. “They may feel comfortable about a portion of their life, but they just don’t feel good when they look in the mirror. Baldness can make someone look eight to 10 years older. … I’ve heard that 1 percent of people don’t mind going bald, but I’ve never met one of them.”


‘Disease of the Spirit’

Hair loss is an issue most people will contend with at some point in their lives. By the age of 35, as many as two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association, and by the age of 50 approximately 85 percent of men have significantly thinning hair. Women are not immune to this “disease of the spirit” either.


Dr. Gallagher has performed more than 7,000 hair transplants since 1995, when he first began doing the procedure, and his expertise has improved the lives of men and women locally, as well as from other parts of the country and around the world. He performs all consultations at his office personally to bond and form trust with each client. Most of his clients come from referrals by fellow doctors and barbers or salon owners such as Oppeltz.


Not everybody is a candidate, however. GMI carefully screens every potential patient, and only those with inadequate donor areas—about 10 percent to 15 percent of prospects—cannot benefit from GMI’s expertise. One successful candidate: Dr. Gallagher himself. He began his hair restoration in 1994 and had his last treatment earlier this year.


Equal parts art and science, the highly labor intensive procedure can take anywhere from six to 10 hours, and it’s “relatively painless” for the patient, according to Dr. Gallagher. It begins with shaving a small hair-bearing portion of the patient’s head—maybe 12 to 15 millimeters, half an inch at most—so Dr. Gallagher can access hair to be transferred to a recipient area. Using a stereomicroscope and other specialized instruments to meticulously plot out and perform each procedure by hand, he uses tiny bundles called follicular units to create a new hairline. The donor area is then cosmetically closed using a trichophytic suture technique, which generally leaves no visible scars.


The procedure is casual, according to Oppeltz, with next to no risk because Dr. Gallagher uses only local anesthetic. During one of Oppeltz’s procedures, he ate lunch, took a nap and watched “Tin Cup” starring Kevin Costner, among other films. The only less-than-pleasant part of the experience came from his awareness of the tiny, almost invisible stitches used to close the incision in his donor area, which stayed in place for two weeks.


Each person’s hair grows at a different rate, but Dr. Gallagher suggests it takes four to six months for the transplanted hair to grow in fully. Most people finish their transfers in two treatments, depending on each patient’s specific goals. The cost to the client: anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.


“Because the hair comes in gradually, people will think you just took a vitamin or something,” says Dr. Gallagher. “Privacy for our clients is a big deal. We’re extremely private here; we see only a couple of consults a day so nobody sees anybody in our office.”


Oppeltz chose Dr. Gallagher because of GMI’s track record of overwhelmingly successful results, but equally important was Oppeltz’s comfort level with the man who would be arming him—and his clients at Main Line Hair Design—with an improved look and a renewed sense of confidence.  


“All of my clients are pretty selective; they demand the best, and that’s why I recommend that they go to see Joe,” he says. “At the same time, he has to be comfortable with you. You’re only going to get as much as your donor area allows, and Joe is very upfront about this. … He’s very good at setting realistic expectations.”


Oppeltz suggests the Dr. Gallagher’s artistry not only improves one’s image and outlook but also has the potential to enliven one’s personal and professional relationships. In short, the procedure has almost innumerable benefits.


“Anybody who tells you they’re confident being bald, they’re not,” Oppeltz says. “For me, it had nothing to do with what I do for a living; I’d simply had enough of the way I looked before, and I’m glad I did it. … I will never, ever, ever put a wig or toupee on my head.”


And, because of Dr. Gallagher, he won’t ever have to.


Gallagher Medical Institute
111 Presidential Blvd., Suite 201, Bala Cynwyd