Do you see a Migraine specialist for your Migraine treatment? For many years — far too many years — I didn’t know there was any such thing as what I now call a “true Migraine specialist.” I assumed (silly me) that neurologists were Migraine specialists.
By 2000, I’d lost track of how many doctors I’d seen to try to get help for Migraine. At that point, I was having a Migraine attack at least five or six days a week. My family doctor had sent me to several doctors, including a “Migraine specialist” about 90 miles away who had only made things worse. I didn’t know what to do, so I hit the Internet to do a bit of research. That was how I learned that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine specialists, and Migraine specialists aren’t necessarily neurologists. That last doctor my family doc sent me to was a neurologist, but she had no special training in treating Migraine. It didn’t take much research to learn more about Migraine than she seemed to know. She, as many doctors do now, prescribed Topamax for me, and no amount of telling her about the side effects made any difference. After nine months, she was telling me I still hadn’t “given it a fair trial.” Oh, did I mention that she had me start at 100 mg twice a day? That’s only eight times the recommended starting dosage. No wonder I had problems, and she called herself a Migraine specialist!
Once I discovered that there are true Migraine specialists out there who see primarily Migraine and Headache patients, I was on a mission to find one. There wasn’t one here in West Virginia at that time, so I asked my family doctor to refer me to Dr. William B. Young at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia. Some people with Migraine whom I’d met online were seeing him, and he sounded great. He truly is a great doctor, and he helped me a great deal over the years. Still, when Dr. David Watson finished his subspecialty residency in “Headache medicine” and started the Headache Center at West Virginia University, it was a great day! Having a doctor only two hours away instead of eight was an enormous improvement.
I had met Dr. Watson at Headache on the Hill, where we teamed up to visit our Senators and members of the House, so we had the opportunity to get to know each other before I became his patient. When I emailed him, and asked if he’d accept me as a patient, he had two conditions:
- Even though I have quite a few friends who are Migraine specialists, if I were going to be his patient, he would be the only one to treat my Migraines and Headaches.
- If we weren’t a good patient/doctor match, he’d refer me to someone else rather than sacrifice the relationship we’d built as colleagues.
If course, those two conditions made perfect sense to me, so I scheduled an appointment. Here’s where I tell you why I trust, respect, and even adore my Migraine specialist:
- Because of the conditions he proposed.
- Dr. Watson wants to work with his patients as true treatment partners, exploring the options, and making treatment decisions together. If we disagree, and we have, we work it out so we’re both content with the outcome.
- He regularly attends continuing education conferences and keeps up on his journal reading.
- He gives his patients the same level of respect that he wants from them.
- If I take information I find to an appointment, chances are, he’s aware of it. If not, we review it then. He doesn’t dismiss information I take to him.
- His caring doesn’t stop at the end of business hours or at the door of the clinic. Dr. Watson is heavily involved in advocacy to raise awareness about Migraine and other Headache disorders, increase research funding, get Medicare to cover necessary treatments such as oxygen for Cluster Headache patients, and reduce stigma. He is the founder founder and chairman of the board of Runnin’ for Research, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to “improving the quality of life of those who suffer with Migraine and Headache disorders through fundraising for quality research and the promotion of patient empowerment, community awareness, and local and national advocacy.”
- He’s a genuinely nice and caring human being.
Here’s a short video of Dr. Watson talking about the Headache Center at West Virginia University:
In 2000, I was on the verge of giving up and just staying in bed with my Migraines. Doctor after doctor hadn’t helped. I’d been told…
- “It’s all in your head.”
- “They’re headaches. Take some Advil, and deal with them.”
- “They’re hormonal. Have a baby.
- “They’re hormonal. Have a hysterectomy.”
- “You’re depressed. Get out of bed and go back to work, and they’ll stop.”
- “Congratulations. You’re an intellectual. You have Migraines.”
Why I’m writing about my Migraine specialist
For almost 20 years now, I’ve been working online as a patient educator and advocate for patients with Migraine disease and other Headache disorders. I’ve met thousands of you online, and have been privileged to meet quite a few of you in person as well. We all share the need to receive both good medical care and support from our doctors and other health care providers.
When I see or hear someone talking about not getting good medical care, a doctor who won’t listen to them, doctors who don’t know much at all about Migraine, and other such situations, I flash back to all of those horrid experiences I had. I want better for you, so I want to share what it’s like to have a great Migraine specialist as part of my health care team.
No, there still aren’t enough Migraine and Headache specialists. Yes, we sometimes have to travel a bit to get to a good specialist, but we’re worth it. It takes about two hours to drive to Dr. Watson’s house from my home. That’s really not bad. If you live in a big city, it can take that long to get across town if traffic is bad.
Please think about this too. If we go by standard dictionary definitions, patients are consumers of health care services. When we shop, do we continue to shop in places where the merchandise or service are substandard? I certainly don’t, and the same applies to doctors. If a doctor won’t talk with me, treat me with the same respect that he demands, and won’t work with me as a treatment partner, I fire his or her sorry butt. That’s all there is to it. If you’re not getting the care you need and deserve, please consider looking for a good Migraine specialist. You deserve the kind of care you can get from one.
Please take a look at this related article: Finding a Migraine Specialist: Why, How, and Where.