August 2022 Society Spotlight
Meet Cynthia E. Armand, MD, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce Co-Chair
My name is Dr. Cynthia Emilie Armand, and I am a neurologist and headache specialist at the Montefiore Headache Center in the Bronx, NY. My journey into headache medicine began long before I realized it was an option, as I had always been intrigued by headache diseases and enjoyed the time I shared with my patients living with headache. This realization came to light after I recognized my journey into neuro-oncology was no more than a fascination that lacked passion. Once that realization was made, mentors like Matthew Robbins, MD, FAHS, AHS Treasurer, helped me envision the possibility of a career that would marry my interests in education, patient connection, and the performing arts. I was blown away by what headache medicine had to offer and the opportunity to achieve my career and personal goals. So, I ventured into headache medicine with open arms and took in all that the AHS had to offer.
Education has always been a natural interest of mine. My method of learning involves understanding with the intent to teach others. Through this, I developed a passion for medical education. First, I started with my patients, recognizing that for any individual, no matter what the background, healthcare in general and more specifically neurologic diseases can be scary. As a result, efforts are often made to seek more information, understanding, and comfort about experiences. Various sources including the internet are used for that purpose, and with misinformation running rampant, I sought to combat this by diving deep into social media as one of the avenues my patients often spoke about as their source. I sought to guide them through their information seeking by working to become a credible source of accurate headache medicine information, so I started an Instagram page, @cynplifiedmd, and began to address questions that I came across in clinic and personal interactions. It has been tremendously rewarding, so much so that I decided to start a website: cynthiaarmand.com, where I plan to continue to do the same. Through my work educating patients, I also understood the challenges faced by those of underserved and vulnerable backgrounds. The stigma of migraine is hard enough, but the lack of support and focus these patients feel is doubly blowing, thus began my work in headache medicine disparities. My experiences with the urban population I serve has improved my understanding of the social determinants of health the vulnerable face, making them important to incorporate within the patient visit, for physical and mental well-being to contribute to better health outcomes.
I take my role in educating the future of headache medicine quite seriously. When I became fellowship director at Montefiore, I recognized that not only fellows, but students navigating the medical profession need more education than just bodily pathophysiology and disease recognition: they need mentorship and sponsorship, both I have been fortunate to receive from my predecessors as well as the AHS through the Emerging Leaders Program. My focus in the realm of education remains to teach what I would have liked to know during my training stages, and to elucidate individualized paths of success. One project born out of my year as an Emerging Leader was the development of the national Headache Medicine Fellowship Opportunities page on the AHS website. My cohort and I researched the best way for residents seeking a career in headache medicine to apply to the field as well as look into ways to create a uniform application process. Our work culminated in an agreement of interested fellowship programs to participate in a unified timeline for the application season. Dr. Niushen Zhang and I continue to oversee management of the webpage, which has been instrumental to headache medicine applicants in providing fellowship program information. We are delighted that this page was a main unifying area for fellowship match which occurred in August 2022 for the first time in years.
In 2021, I was appointed co-chair, along with Dr. Rebecca Wells, of the AHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Taskforce. There, my personal and professional interests aligned in a new light. Our efforts thus far have spanned more than a year from January 2021 to June 2022, during which time we, along with our assembled taskforce, engaged in the first phase of a multifaceted longitudinal collaboration which involved education and concordance with AHS leadership. I am excited by the deep work we engaged in together for the improvement of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the AHS which culminated with the presentation of our recommendations to the AHS Board at the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting this past June. Our efforts continue as I join forces with Dr. Clarimar Borrero-Mejias to lead a group of many committed taskforce members for a second year focused on implementation, most of which, you will come to discover and experience as the year progresses. In general, I am excited by my involvement within the AHS, but this work has been most meaningful.
The American Headache Society has been a tremendous part of my journey to becoming a well-rounded headache specialist. I am proud to be a member and look forward to what the future holds.