To investigate the current headache medicine education paradigm in allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada.
There is a disparity in the number of clinicians specially trained to treat patients with headache disorders and the number of people who have them. Early education and exposure to headache medicine is crucial to address this disparity. However, the current state of headache education within medical schools across the United States and Canada is unknown.
The authors created a medical student headache education survey, which is a 20-question REDCap survey that was distributed via email to the neurology clerkship director, curriculum dean, or similar role at each US and Canadian MD or DO conferring medical school. The email listserv was created using the American Academy of Neurology Clerkship Directory, the Association of American Medical Colleges Organization Directory, the American Association of College of Osteopathic Medicine Organization Directory, manual searches of the institutions’ websites, and phone calls and emails to administrators as needed.
Of the 249 individuals contacted, 78 completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 31.3%. Of those responses, 84.6% of respondents (66/78) reported that their institution has at least one mandatory session on headache disorders. Many of these sessions (72.7% (48/78)) occurred during preclinical training, and 74.2% (49/78) occurred as part of the clinical curricula. Of respondents, 44.9% (39/78) reported that their institutions coordinate headache education across training levels (i.e., from preclinical to clinical), and only 17.9% (14/78) coordinate across clinical rotations. The most common topics covered were headache red flags, migraine, pharmacologic management, and differentiating primary versus secondary headache. 65.4% of respondents (51/78) felt that the preclinical headache curriculum prepares their students for the clinical experience, and 55.1% (43/78) felt that medical students were learning enough about headache medicine at their institution. Barriers to educating medical students about headache included insufficient time during courses, lack of administrative support in curricula development, lack of available resources, and lack of student interest. Case-based learning modules and online lectures were the most desired educational materials to improve medical student headache education at their institution.
The majority of medical schools report incorporating headache medicine education into preclinical or clinical curricula and cover a range of topics in headache medicine. Yet there remains a lack of consistency, with some reporting limited headache education, citing barriers such as lack of administrative support and available educational resources. There is also variation in what is being taught at the medical student level. Future projects should aim to address said barriers, with the goal of providing a standardized headache medicine curriculum for use across medical schools.

© 2021 American Headache Society.