Background: What constitutes the typical clinical experience of an academic headache specialist in America is unknown.
Purpose: To clarify this issue, we undertook a survey of academic headache specialists who are members of the American Headache Society.
Methods: In June 2000, 181 surveys including questions regarding academic rank, departmental and institutional affiliation, and time distribution were sent to members drawn from the 1999-2000 Membership Directory of the American Headache Society whose primary addresses were recognized academic institutions or who, by reputation, had extensive academic affiliation. Additional questions about headache teaching, research, and practice were included.
Results: Seventy-two (39.7%) of the surveys were returned. Forty-nine (40%) of the 122 American medical schools were represented. The most prevalent academic rank was professor (38%). Included were 2 departmental chairs, 1 division chief, 1 vice dean, and 1 residency training director. The majority (70.8%) were neurologists. Seventy-two percent of respondents spent at least 50% of their time in a clinic, 79% spent 25% or less of their time on research, and 78% spent 25% or less time in teaching. The average number of new patients seen per week was 9.0 +/- 7.6, with each visit lasting 62.4 +/- 20.8 minutes. Clinicians saw 22.7 +/- 14.6 patients for follow-up per week, with the average visit lasting 24.7 +/- 6.8 minutes. Although it appears that at least informal instruction in headache is provided to medical students, interns, and residents, 19.7% (12 of 61) of respondents reported that no formal medical school lecture on the topic of headache was offered at their institutions.
Conclusion: This preliminary survey offers some insight into the clinical experience of academic headache specialists in the American medical system. Suggestions for future studies are discussed.