Background: Headache disorders are exceedingly common, debilitating neurological conditions, and there is a striking paucity of headache specialists nationally. However, headache education is underrepresented in the curriculum of neurology residency programs and few neurology residents elect to pursue headache medicine fellowships. We aimed to explore the possibility that a low degree of headache interest among neurology department chairs and residency program directors (PDs) underlies this mismatch. Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of chairs and PDs associated with ACGME neurology residency programs. Data sources included the ACGME program list, faculty profiles on institutional webpages, Doximity profiles, the American Headache Society (AHS) membership directory, and the roster of United Council for Neurologic Specialties (UCNS) headache diplomates. A headache interest was deemed to be present with the presence of a declared headache or concussion interest, completion of a headache fellowship, active AHS membership, or UCNS certification. Results: Our review included 137 residency programs comprising 127 department chairs, 132 PDs, and 5 faculty who were both chairs and PDs. Of all faculty, 62 (23.5%) were women. Headache expertise was declared by 10 (7.6%) chairs and 13 (9.5%) PDs. Headache fellowship training was pursued by 1 (0.8%) chair and 5 (3.6%) PDs, and among all faculty was the 10th most common subspecialty fellowship pursued. Three (2.3%) chairs and 7 (5.1%) PDs were AHS members. Seven (5.3%) chairs and 10 (7.3%) PDs were UCNS headache certified. An overall headache interest was present in 29 (11.0%) faculty, including 14 (10.6%) chairs and 15 (10.9%) PDs. A graduate degree aside from an MD (eg, PhD, MPH) was more likely to be achieved in faculty without a headache interest (29.4%) than faculty with a headache interest (6.9%, P =.0076). Residency programs where either the chair or PD had a headache interest were just as likely to feature a UCNS headache fellowship program than programs without chair or PD headache interest (25.0 vs 23.0%, P =.83). Conclusions: Current neurology department chairs and residency PDs have low rates of headache interest, which may influence the emphasis of headache education in neurology training. Headache interest is associated with lower rates of other graduate degrees, and future analysis should examine if academic faculty interested in headache are less likely to be in leadership positions because of a lack of research funding, opportunities, or accomplishments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology