Dr. David Watson is originally from West Virginia, and he’s happy to be “home” and running the Headache Center at West Virginia University after completing a subspecialty residency in “headache medicine” in North Carolina. A true “family man,” he’s become adept at juggling work and family time. “Dr. Dave” also helps answer reader questions for our Ask the Clinician column and is our physician reviewer for all of our migraine content. Recently, I learned more about him:
Q: Why did you specialize in “headache medicine?”** Dr. Dave:** When I started my residency at UNC in neurology, the department had a very strong headache program lead by Alan Finkel, Kevin Kahn, and Doug Mann. Then it got even stronger with the addition of Anne Calhoun. I really enjoyed working with them and seeing their patients. I realized that this was a patient population that had been largely ignored, poorly treated, and stigmatized. And the reality was and is that there is often much good that can be done. Few areas in medicine rely on a cooperative doctor-patient relationship as much as in headache medicine.
Q: What do you tell patients who tell you they’ve “tried everything?”** Dr. Dave:** People mean very different things when they say this. A few have actually been working with a knowledgeable headache and migraine specialist and really have been through most options. But most people who feel that they have tried everything have merely tried everything that’s been offered to them. While there are limited treatments which have been FDA approved, and we certainly need more consistently effective treatment options, there are A LOT of treatments available. This includes pharmaceuticals, behavioral modalities, peripheral nerve injections, and other non-drug therapies.
When looking at past treatments tried, the questions to ask are: Did they take it long enough? Did they take enough of it? Did they take it combined with something that could help? Or hurt?
The conclusion is, nobody has ever actually tried everything, as it would be impossible to do so in a single lifetime.
Q: What’s the most important element in a doctor/patient partnership?** Dr. Dave:** Trust. Trust the doctor to be doing his or her best. Trust the patient to be open to options and following instructions. Trust the doctor to be listening to your concerns and to be open to your ideas. Trust the patient to giving you an accurate reflection of his or her experiences.
Q: If all of your patients could understand and believe one thing, what would it be?** Dr. Dave:** Headache medicine is the long game as much as it is the short game. While one goal is treating each individual attack, a more important goal is the slow down or elimination the attacks and returning people’s quality of life. Is you’ve had chronic migraine for 20 years, don’t lose hope when our first crack at it doesn’t seem to work in the first month.
Q: Please share a bit about your extra activities outside of your medical practice that you participate in to help patients with migraine and other headache disorders and why they’re important?** Dr. Dave:** A major concern in the medical community right now is physician burnout. This is especially high in neurology. One of the things that we can do to prevent this is to get involved in things outside of the office that can make a difference. For me, advocacy is my burnout “off switch.” I have been involved in a variety of efforts, such as neurology on the hill and headache on the hill - both days to go to DC and talk to our legislators about what our needs are and how they can help. I’m a member of the American Academy of Neurology Government Relations Committee as well. I started the ill fated “Hot Wings for Headache Challenge” and for the past three years have organized Runnin’ for Research 5k run/walk events. In the first two years we were able to donate over $23,000 to support headache and migraine research and this year, after our three events on October 8 (runnin4research.org) we should be able to at least double that amount.
Dr. Watson is a huge advocate of strong patient/doctor partnerships. To read some of his thoughts on the topic and watch some video with him, see Managing Migraine - Teri Robert and Dr. Watson. You can also check out our Ask the Clinician questions and answers.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.