“If we stand up to migraine and we stand together, then we can fight this battle.”

We’re excited to announce that in June 2020, Dr. Lawrence Newman and Dr. Christine Lay became the American Migraine Foundation’s new chair and vice-chair, respectively. Their longstanding commitment and passion for the headache and migraine community is driven by a personal connection to migraine. Both of them started experiencing attacks from a young age. They only realized they had migraine when they learned about it during medical school. Now, Dr. Newman is the director of the Division of Headache at NYU Langone Health and Dr. Lay is head of the Centre for Headache at the University of Toronto.

Since assuming their new roles at the Foundation, the two have discussed the organization’s priorities, focusing on research and access to care. They recently sat down with AMF Executive Director Nim Lalvani to share their vision for the future of the Foundation and the migraine community.

Reflecting on 10 years of patient advocacy

It’s important to look back on the progress made before charting a course for the future. Dr. Newman shares that he’s been involved with the AMF since its inception, recalling the day that previous and founding Chairman Dr. David Dodick suggested that the American Headache Society create a patient-facing arm to focus on education and advocacy.

“[The American Migraine Foundation] really did change the talk around what migraine is,” Dr. Newman says, “That it’s not just a bad headache, but in fact that it’s a disabling disease that affects millions and millions of people—children and adults across the lifespan.”

The Foundation did so by elevating patient voices in the Move Against Migraine campaign, a multi-channel awareness push that rebranded migraine as a disabling disease. Dr. Lay views the patient voice as the “foundation of the Foundation,” and explains that many patients advocate for themselves by educating themselves through sites like the American Migraine Foundation before raising awareness for migraine in their social circles and workplaces.

Focusing on access, research

During the conversation, Dr. Newman and Dr. Lay shared that healthcare access was a priority for the organization. “We know that there are segments of the population that, A, don’t have access to care and B, even when they do have access to care, don’t get quality care” Dr. Newman explains. To address healthcare inequity, the Foundation is working with up-and-coming leaders of the American Headache Society to address inequities in underserved communities.

Dr. Lay is optimistic about the future of healthcare access, pointing to the way virtual care has helped patients stay connected to their providers during the COVID pandemic. Individuals who may not have a specialist in their area can lean on telemedicine to speak to doctors, receive a diagnosis and get recommendations that can improve their lives. “I think virtual care is going to be a big part of our future in reaching more headache patients,” Dr. Lay shared.

Other Foundation priorities include raising awareness about pediatric migraine, which included the launch of the Pediatric Migraine Content Hub, and effecting change through research. “Research is really where it happens,” says Dr. Lay, “We have a very strong partnership with our colleagues through the American Headache Society to work on research, to make those changes.”

A better quality of life

Ultimately, Dr. Newman and Dr. Lay seek to provide a better quality of life to people living with migraine. That matters whether they’re caring for their own patients or working on initiatives to improve the standard of care nationwide. “Those of us who are drawn into medicine are doing it for pretty much one reason. It’s to reach out and to try and help other people,” says Dr. Newman. He also notes that for healthcare providers in headache medicine, this also involves educating the patient’s loved ones about migraine.

“We want patients to have improved quality of life, and that involves education,” says Dr. Lay. “It involves being aware of the disease. It involves research and coming up with new treatments and making those treatments available.” She stressed the importance of collaboration between patients, providers, researchers and advocates in the move against migraine.

“I think we have to talk about it, share our knowledge, share our expertise and support each other,” says Dr. Lay. “If we stand up to migraine and we stand together, then we can fight this battle.”