The Value of an American Headache Society Membership: Q&A with Kathleen Digre, MD, FAHS

Dr. Kathleen Digre outlines the evolution of AHS and how health care professionals can benefit from becoming members

Dr. Kathleen Digre recently assumed the role of President of the American Headache Society for the 2018-2020 term. Dr. Digre is the Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, Chief of the Division of Headache and Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an Adjunct Professor of Anesthesia at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

At the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, she recently spoke with us about the history of the American Headache Society and the value people can derive from becoming a member.


Why is the American Headache Society such an important resource for headache specialists and health care professionals?
More than 37 million people in the U.S. are living with headache disorders. There is only one society that is dedicated to patients, physicians, health care providers and anyone interested in the topic of headache: the American Headache Society and the American Migraine Foundation.

From your perspective, what are the core values of AHS?
The American Headache Society exists to reduce the burden of pain for people who have headache and migraine. We provide education not only to students, residents, fellows, doctors and health care practitioners, but also to patients.

We also promote research in our field, because without research, we will not be able to help people who have headache. We are here to advocate for all people who have headache and migraine.

What does AHS offer health care providers that other organizations cannot?
The American Headache Society is the whole package. We focus on the patient. If you start with the patient, you realize the most important thing is to have educated providers. The American Headache Society educates providers at all levels. Whether it is a medical student, a physician, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant or a psychologist, we are here to educate all providers of care.

The second thing we focus on is promoting research. Because of that, we host an annual Scientific Meeting where we bring together as a collegial group of clinicians, and clinical scientists to exchange ideas and be enthusiastic about the subject of headache in all of its forms.

We also have numerous special interest groups that bring together people who are very interested in specific topics, from cluster headache and behavioral management of headache to complementary treatments for headache and intractable headache.

At the end of the day, we want to help the patient. That is why we are here.

How has AHS evolved since your first meeting?
I have been a member of the American Headache Society for over 30 years. I remember at my first few meetings, I was very intimidated by all of these men in dark suits who seemed to know everything there was to know about headache. In over 30 years, the climate and demographics have changed significantly at the American Headache Society, and I am proud to have been a part of that evolution.

I also think the overall enthusiasm of the group has changed. Thirty years ago, we had so few treatments for people with severe headache and migraine. We would just be talking in theoretical terms. We have since been able to capitalize on the ample scientific research that has come forth in the past few decades to move the field forward.

Another big change is that we now have so many educational offerings for patients; in particular, the American Migraine Foundation (which is a part of the American Headache Society) has given people who have headache and migraine a place to go for help.

What are your primary goals as president of AHS?
I have several goals as the new president of the American Headache Society. The first one is improving communication. We need to get out our message to patients and providers, and we need to communicate better amongst ourselves. We are in a revolution of headache medicine right now. The science has brought us to a whole new level, and our treatments are taking us to an entirely new level as well. We are in a very exciting time, but if we do not communicate what is happening on all of these levels, we are not going to be successful.

I also want to continue to expand our top-rate educational offerings, because we need an army of providers that is going to be out there helping move the science of headache and migraine forward. We absolutely need to educate providers across the board—students, residents, primary care physicians, neurologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and psychologists. We need to have all providers on board, so I am really going to be promoting headache education for providers throughout my term.

Finally, I am going to continue to support the American Migraine Foundation, which is a part of the American Headache Society. The American Migraine Foundation is making great strides to improve the lives of people who have headache and migraine.

Kathleen Digre, MD, FAHS, is President of the American Headache Society, a professional society for doctors and other health care workers who specialize in studying and treating headache and migraine. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders, and to share and advance the work of its members. Learn more about the American Headache Society’s work and find out how you can become a member today.

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