Dr Russell Knudsen has been at the forefront of hair transplant surgery in Australia for 35 years. And he’s only getting started.
He’s performed more than 8,000 hair transplant procedures and has a YouTube fan base that spans the globe. But despite his accolades (including Past President of both the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery and Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery), Dr Russell Knudsen remains refreshingly down to earth and just as enthusiastic as when he started out some 35 years ago.
‘I like to be busy and I’m only 66, so I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. Friends who have retired early seem a little lost to me. I will want to do less operating and more managing down the track, but I love consulting and teaching, so I expect that to always continue,’ he says.
On becoming a YouTube sensation
In addition to operating a multilocation practice (four clinics across Australia and one in New Zealand) and various teaching commitments, Dr Knudsen is also a rising YouTube sensation. The Hair Loss Show, hosted by Dr Knudsen and fellow hair restoration surgeon Dr Vikram Jayaprakash, is attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers from across Australia and the rest of the world.
In less than six months, The Hair Loss Show has had more than four million impressions, and one episode alone (side effects of Finasteride) has 82,000 views (at time of writing).
‘People are increasingly using YouTube for information searches,’ says Dr Knudsen. ‘We felt that there was a gap in the market for short videos answering concisely the many factors associated with hair loss, the different treatments available and some basic biology of hair.
‘We also wanted to provide quality information in a relaxed setting rather than do it as an advertising self-promotional pitch. We thought that a chat between two doctors in an informal setting would be more engaging than a lecture style.
‘Feedback has been very positive; people have liked that we aren’t trying to “sell” them anything, just inform them.’
On becoming a hair transplant surgeon
‘I came to hair transplantation by accident, through a friend of my wife, Anne. He was looking for a doctor to consult on hair loss. In the early 1980s the only therapy for balding men was hair transplants and I investigated where to send him and got hooked by the concept. It was pure chance. ‘I previously toyed with the idea of neurosurgery but ended up in general practice, which I actually enjoyed. I made a brave choice to enter the new field of hair restoration, abetted by a very supportive wife, and the rest is history.
‘Being actively involved in teaching and education in my field has been a great joy, and being able to contribute to developing international education and fellowship has been my biggest reward. My motto is to be the best you can be.’
Dr Knudsen says it’s tricky practising in multiple locations across Australia; it involves travel every week (two days per week), but it is how he built a busy practice. ‘I went to the patients rather than waiting for them to come to me,’ he says. ‘Enthusiasm helps and I enjoy the challenges of practising in different locations. It stops you from getting too set in your ways.’
Hair restoration therapy has evolved significantly over the past few decades, and Dr Knudsen says the most important advance was finally recognising the natural anatomy of scalp hair being arranged in groups of mostly 1-4 hairs. ‘Once we use this anatomical unit as our graft size, natural results became the norm,’ he explains.
Another first for the profession was the Artas robot, a system utilising robotic and artificial intelligence technology to assist surgeons to deliver precise, minimally-invasive permanent hair restoration results while reducing the risk of human error. Dr Knudsen was the first doctor in the Southern Hemisphere to have the Artas robot in his clinic.
‘For me, it was a natural decision based around the labour-saving component for an ancient surgeon like myself! The physically repetitive and fatigue-inducing nature of follicular unit extraction (FUE) harvesting lends itself to automation. It hasn’t revolutionised the field (I still have the only one in Australia after six years) but it certainly is an effective option,’ he says.
‘Stem cell replication is the future and I am involved in an international project that features “hair banking”, putting follicles into deep freeze while we perfect the technique to expand the cells and inject back into the patient’s scalp. This will eventually replace hair transplantation as we know it.’
On being an oenophile
Dr Knudsen has always dreamed of having a refrigerated wine cellar and he recently achieved this goal: ‘It‘s capacity is 1,488 bottles and 18 magnums. I thought that I had collected 600-700 bottles in the back of the garage over the years and figured it would take about two years to fill the cellar. I was a little bit out… It took two days as cases of wine kept appearing from the hidden recesses of the garage!
‘I like aged wine, so I have a mathematical model that is based around ageing white wines for five years and ageing red wines for 10 years. I figure that we consume 150 bottles per year so we need between 1075-1500 bottles (50% white and 50% red).’
While Dr Knudsen’s wine cellar is significantly weighted to reds (hence the 1,500 bottles), with Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon holding the top spots, Chardonnay and Riesling are their whites of choice. There is also an “International Wall”, with wines from France, Germany, Italy, USA, Chile and Argentina.
And the thought of one day having his own vineyard? ‘I harbour no desire to have my own vineyard – drinking wine is far better than growing it!,’ he says.
On play time
‘Anne and I travel a lot (in a pre- COVID-19 world). We have a holiday home in Queenstown, New Zealand, a destination we love to visit regularly. Our son, Joel, got married in Queenstown; we have made a lot of wonderful memories there. ‘We love the great restaurants in Queenstown and, more importantly, the great vineyards in the Central Otago. Needless to say, we enjoy sampling the local produce!’
‘One thing on my travel bucket list is going on safari, but I’m hoping to rectify this later in the year (depending on COVID-19). Anne and I are fortunate in having lots of wonderful friends around the world whom we love to visit.’
While travel is high on Dr Knudsen’s priority list, so too is health and fitness. ‘Travel is tiring and lowers your immune system, so it’s imperative you stay fit,’ he says. ‘I have a personal trainer for weights twice a week, do cardio (bike/rower) twice a week and a brisk walk in the park once a week.’
He’s also a fantasy golfer, in that he fantasises about playing more than he actually does, and likes to dabble with the guitar and more recently the ukulele. ‘I am going to get an electric piano keyboard in the near future so I can create my own band!,’ he says.
Dr Knudsen and his wife recently welcomed a new addition to their lives: their first grandchild. ‘I am crazy about my new granddaughter and am delighted to soon have a grandson later this year,’ he says. AMP
A few of my favourite things
My perfect weekend is... Exercise Saturday morning. Dinner out with friends Saturday night. A walk in Centennial Park, Sydney on Sunday and reading the papers or seeing family.
My favourite place to eat is… Regatta in Rose Bay for lunch, Pendolino in the city for Italian.
My favourite car is… My Tesla Model S!
My favourite place to travel is… Queenstown.
My favourite way to let off steam is… Exercise.
If I had more time I would… Be more diligent with music practice.
I’m most proud of… My family and their achievements.
If I wasn’t a hair transplant surgeon I would be… A sommelier at a fine restaurant.