Mia Minen: Member Spotlight

This month’s spotlight honoree discusses migraine as a public health crisis and frontline disorder

Our February member spotlight is Mia Minen, MD, MPH, FAHS, an AHS member whose work focuses on improving the diagnosis and treatment of people with migraine by doctors in various medical specialties, including emergency medicine, primary care, psychiatry and other specialty areas. She’s also the chair of all AHS Special Interest Sections: “I’m like the Chair of Chairs,” she jokes.

She has been committed to pursuing research to improve migraine care across disciplines, and has secured grants from the NIH, the American Academy of Neurology-American Brain Foundation, the NYU Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Sciences, and others in order to do so.

“I’ve tried to identify people with migraine in the primary care setting, and have tested novel technologies to enable them to get treatments and to bring data to their providers to empower them to become their own advocates and show the doctor how the headaches are affecting them,” she says. She was also a co-author on the migraine management in the emergency department guidelines and is on the guideline panels for migraine prevention and complementary migraine treatment.

A Public Health Issue

There are about 40 million Americans with migraine: 12% of the US population. But even though migraine is the second most disabling condition worldwide per the World Health Organization in terms of years lost due to disability, Dr. Minen says it is still underdiagnosed and undertreated. Through her work, she hopes to position migraine and headache as more of a public health issue, and raise awareness of it accordingly.

Dr. Minen defines headache as a frontline disorder, “meaning patients are presenting to primary care, to the emergency department and also to OB-GYN.”

However, these patients are not appropriately identified and managed, Dr. Minen says, which is one of the reasons she wants to improve migraine diagnosis and management across specialties. Otherwise patients might get to a neurologist or a headache specialist too late in the game.

“I’m trying to research evidence-based, scalable, accessible forms of treatments that primary care physicians and other providers can easily offer to their patients,” she says.

As part of raising awareness, Dr. Minen participated in the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Palatucci Leadership Advocacy Forum and her advocacy plan was about raising awareness of migraine. She developed courses on migraine education for other professional organizations; she developed a course on Migraine and Psychiatric Comorbidities for the American Psychiatric Association, the AAN and the American Neuropsychiatric Association.

Expressions of Migraine as Educational Tools

Dr. Minen has a variety of strategies to enable patients with better headache knowledge, like reaching out to populations such as high school students in New York City, where she co-created a program called Headache and Arts. In the program, students learn about the brain, vision and perception, as well as how some artists with migraine, like Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Lewis Carroll, depicted the symptoms of migraine and its pain through art.

The students created their own art depicting either migraine or concussion and the pain and neurologic symptoms associated, and these artworks were then displayed as a form of public health exhibitions.

“We have the students serve as public health ambassadors, where they’re supposed to take something they learned from the program about migraine and/or concussion and teach it to others in the community,” Dr. Minen says.

The students approached the project creatively. One wrote a poem which she submitted to a national poetry contest. Others gave assemblies at school to teach their classmates about migraine or concussion, created social media campaigns and taught their sports teams to raise concussion awareness on social media.

Headache Role Model

Dr. Minen says that she didn’t know much about headache disorders until her time as a medical student at Jefferson Medical College. On her neurology clerkship, her attending was AHS member William B. Young, MD, FAHS.

“He asked me if I would like to spend some time with him seeing neurology on the outpatient side,” Dr. Minen says. She was amazed by the longstanding relationships Dr. Young had with his patients in the Jefferson Headache Clinic. “They came from really far away. He was able to help them, to counsel them, and they seemed very grateful that he was helping them and changing their lives.”

After this, she realized she wanted to become a headache specialist as well. The rewards of making a difference in patient lives stayed with Dr. Minen, who also appreciates getting to know patients over the long term. “I really do try to bond with the patients and help them change, both through treating with medications as well as behavioral therapies.”

Advocacy and Mentorship

Dr. Minen also devoted significant time to raising awareness of the field of headache medicine. She co-authored two articles on the field of headache medicine. The first was a study published in the journal Headache® titled, “New Investigator and Trainee Task Force Survey on the Recruitment and Retention of Headache Specialists.” The second was published in Neurology and is titled “Emerging Specialties in Neurology: Headache Medicine.”

She chaired the AHS career in headache mentoring lunch at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in 2019 and will be chairing it again in Toronto in 2020. She has also served as faculty at the AHS Resident Education Program.

In addition, she mentored over 30 trainees on research related to headache. For her mentorship, Dr. Minen was recognized nationally by the American Academy of Neurology with receipt of the first Neuroscience is Rewarding Grant and by the City College of New York J. Levy Fellowship for her significant contributions in encouraging students to conduct research in neurology/headache medicine.

About Mia Minen

Name: Mia Minen, MD, MPH, FAHS

AHS Membership: Member since 2011

Primary: Chief of headache research and assistant professor in the departments of neurology and population health at NYU Langone Health

Quote: “I have been very lucky to have a lot of excellent mentors through the American Headache Society. I’ve met other people who helped to connect my interests and guide my career. I’ve learned to spread my wings, stretch, and try different things.”

AHS affiliations: Chair of Chairs of Special Interest Section; Chair of the Refractory, Inpatient and Emergency Care, Member of the Behavioral Issues, Primary Front Line Headache Care, Complementary and Integrative Medicine and New Investigators and Trainees Special Interest Sections; Member of the AHS Front Line Initiative for Primary Care Providers, Education Committee, Membership Committee, Guidelines Committee

She is also on the AAN Guidelines Subcommittee and served as the lead for the dissemination of the AAN pediatric guidelines. She is involved in writing the new AAN migraine guidelines.

The American Headache Society is always seeking new members to join its ranks as it looks to gain a better understanding of headache and face pain. Become a member today to see what all AHS has to offer for those involved in headache treatment and research.

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