Using my role as a trustee to increase understanding of migraine

By: Professor Peter Goadsby, Director of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Facility and Professor of Neurology at King’s College London

The Migraine Trust is the foremost patient-driven organisation in the world. My personal professional mission statement is to make the world better for people with headache disorders. Serving on the board allows me to pursue the mission in a way that is likely to have real benefits. So, when I say it is an honour to re-join the board, it is not just a platitude – it is completely true.

It became obvious to me in my medical school days that headache disorders: migraine as a clear example, where an incredible chance to be useful. I was well mentored by Jim Lance, so The Migraine Trust supporting training fellowships and research, gives an opportunity to repay that privilege. The Migraine Trust has had as an ethos that facts matter; understanding migraine will ultimately set those trapped by it be free. Working within and for The Migraine Trust allows me to help that broad agenda in some small way.

The biennial Migraine Trust International Symposium (which will happen virtually in October), that I have been fortunate to be involved with now for two decades, offers an outlet and an incubator for serious thinking about the problem. By bringing great minds together, the synergies produce new, innovative ideas that will bring lasting benefits to the headache community.

The neurology community

One aspect of the trustee role I particularly enjoy is that of being an envoy, one might say interloper, into the broader neurology community. Headache-interested neurologists have long supported The Migraine Trust from MacDonald Critchley (a neurologist and one of the founders of The Migraine Trust) onwards; a tradition continued by the British Association for the Study of Headache. Broader neurology has, with time, responded to the challenge of a serious neurological disorder that migraine clearly presents. Change never comes fast enough; yet change we are seeing for the good as more and more neurology departments acknowledge the need for headache expertise to act as a crucial nidus to develop optimal care in the National Health Service.

The Migraine Trust role also offers the chance, as an ambassador, to educate the public more broadly. The media depiction of a migraineur has not always been kind. Here, again, The Migraine Trust ethos of facts: research-based data, affords a firm platform. We can teach everyone that migraine is a brain disorder, with functional brain imaging this is clear. We can describe the very significant burden of the problem and thus encourage policy-makers influenced by the public at large to do better in providing resources.

To paraphrase another: why am I looking forward to the trustee role? I am not satisfied. I am not satisfied with our understanding of migraine. I am not satisfied by the treatments we can offer, and I will certainly not be satisfied until the world is a much better place for everyone suffering directly, and indirectly, from migraine.