New Investigator and Trainee Task Force Survey on the Recruitment and Retention of Headache Specialists

Mia T. Minen, Tesha Monteith, Lauren D. Strauss, Amaal Starling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objectives We sought to survey the New Investigators and Trainees Section (NITS) members of the American Headache Society (AHS) to better understand their exposure to headache medicine during training and to determine their perceptions and attitudes about the field and the future of headache medicine. Background Despite the high prevalence of headache disorders in the general population, only about 2% of neurology residents pursue headache medicine fellowships. Furthermore, there is a paucity of United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties headache specialists in the country to meet the population demands. Thus, there needs to be a focus on how to recruit and retain more headache specialists. Methods A survey was distributed via SurveyMonkey to the NITS listserv. It remained online for 60 days, during which reminder emails were sent to members of the listserv. In addition, the survey was available on laptops at NITS-related events at an annual AHS meeting. Descriptive analyses were then conducted using SurveyMonkey and Excel. Results Of the 93 members of NITS, 64 of the 96 (68.8%) clicked to initiate the survey and 52.7% successfully completed it. Attendings made up the majority of respondents (62.5%), followed by fellows (10.9%), and residents (7.8%). Key highlights of the survey included the following: just under 10% reported no exposure to a headache center during any time in their training (medical school, residency, or fellowship); less than 2% had exposure to a headache center during medical school; less than half of participants reported exposure to a headache center in residency (45.3%) and during fellowship (43.4%). Having a mentor in the field, liking the patient population, and working in a headache center, 64.7%, 52.9%, and 41.2%, respectively, were the top ways in which participants became interested in headache. The journal Headache (56.9%), attendings (56.3%), and the AHS/American Academy of Neurology guidelines for migraine management (52.0%) are the resources cited as being used all/most of the time. About 82.4% strongly agree that there needs to be improved headache education for physicians of all specialties (primary care, emergency department, psychiatry); 84.4% feel that they are appreciated by their patients; 68.6% feel that there is strong support in their departments for headache; 56.9% believe that their work schedule leaves enough time for personal and family life; and 60.8% agreed that their professional life will improve in years to come. Participants agreed/strongly agreed that they like to treat the following diseases/symptoms: migraine headache (98.0%), cluster headache (92%), chronic daily headache (84%), and post-concussive syndrome (71.4%). Participants disagreed/strongly disagreed that they like to treat the following comorbid conditions/symptoms: low back pain (66.6%), dizziness (42.9%), sleep apnea (36.7%), depression (32.0%), and anxiety (32.0%). Conclusions In this detailed survey on the recruitment and retention of headache specialists, the following themes emerged: mentorship and exposure to a headache center are key foundations in the young investigator/trainee experience. Young headache specialists appear positive about their field of medicine. These specialists like to treat various headache types but not necessarily some of the related comorbidities (sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, back pain, and dizziness). Finally, there was strong agreement that there needs to be improved headache education for physicians of other medical specialties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1092-1101
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • comorbidities
  • education
  • headache
  • mentor
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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