Originally seen on Chronic Migraine Warrior, Written by Jamie Valendy Reposted by Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc.

This week, I joined a group of 174 advocates from 45 states in Washington, DC at the 13th annual Headache on the Hill lobbying initiative, which is organized by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA).

2020 Headache on the Hill

This was my second time participating in Headache on the Hill (Headache on the Hill 2019: My Experience). We spent Monday in training and preparing for our Hill visits. On Tuesday, we loaded onto buses to head to the Capitol for a group photo, before splitting up to head to our congressional meetings.

Team Arizona

The group for Arizona was made up of six amazing advocates: Kerrie Smyres, Dr. Amaal Starling, Amy Tees, Jenn Tingwald, Jamie Valendy, and Don Vanderpool.

We had a full schedule, meeting with the offices of: Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Senator Martha McSally, Representative Greg Stanton, Representative Ruben Gallego, Representative Paul Gosar, Representative David Schweikert, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick.

Our meetings went well, and we were able to make some connections with the staffers we met with. I never cease to be amazed at the prevalence of headache disorders. Everyone has some connection to them. It reminds me that my voice and story speak for so many others that live with migraine or other headache disorders… and that gives me a push to continue advocating.

Migraine Impact

The impact that migraine has on individuals, families, and society is profound. Sharing my story with legislators gives a face to the disease, while sharing statistics speaks to the pervasiveness and burden of migraine and other headache disorders. 
Migraine is a prevalent and serious public health issue:

  • Migraine is the 2nd leading cause of disability in the United States (1).
  • 47 million Americans will have migraine attacks this year (1).
  • 5 million Americans with migraine will have 10 or more days with headache per month (2).

Migraine is part of the Chronic Pain Crisis in the United States:

  • There are more than 1.2 million emergency department visits for migraine annually in the United States (3).
  • 59% of emergency department visits in the United States for migraine include opioid treatments (2).
  • Opioids are not indicated for the treatment of migraine (4), and opioid use may increase the frequency and severity of migraine attacks (5).

Migraine disease management requires patient access to headache medicine physicians:

  • At least 8 headache medicine physicians are needed per 100k people with migraine (6).
  • There are currently only 1.2 certified headache medicine physicians per 100k people with migraine in the United States (7).

There are only 574 headache specialists in the United States (6). Given the prevalence and burden of all headache disorders, the disparity of current and needed headache specialists is devastating.
The ‘Asks’

The United States is facing a huge shortage of doctors, including specialists (8). The Opioid Workforce Act H.R.3414 / S.2892) would fund 1,000 new physician training positions in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain medicine.

However, there is a problem with the bill language. It explicitly supports “approved residency training programs in… pain medicine.” However, residency training programs do not exist in pain medicine. There are only approved fellowships in pain medicine. There is also no specific mention of headache medicine, which also has only fellowships.

The asks:

  • Urge amendment to H.R.3414 / S.2892 to ensure support of US physician training in:
    • ACGME-accredited pain medicine fellowships
    • UCNS-accredited headache medicine fellowships
  • Co-sponsor the bill and support pain medicine and headache medicine fellowships.

Advocacy Work

Taking part in advocacy work is an important part of my journey living with chronic pain. Being surrounded by others that are passionate about coming together as a unified voice for all people living with headache disorders fills me with hope. There is power in sharing our stories and making connections with others. I’m honored to have been able to participate in Headache on the Hill, again; and I look forward to continuing to do so. 


“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek


Sources:(1) GBD 2016 Headache Collaborators (2018). Global, regional, and national burden of migraine and tension-type headache, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. Neurology, 17(11), 954–976. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30322-3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6191530/.
(2) Blumenfeld, A., Varon, S., Wilcox, T., Buse, D., Kawata, A., Manack, A., Goadsby, P., Lipton, R. (2011). Disability, HRQoL and resource use among chronic and episodic migraineurs: Results from the International Burden of Migraine Study (IBMS). Cephalalgia, 31(3), 301–315. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102410381145https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20813784.(3)   Friedman, B. W., West, J., Vinson, D. R., Minen, M. T., Restivo, A., & Gallagher, E. J. (2015). Current management of migraine in US emergency departments: An analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Cephalalgia, 35(4), 301–309. https://doi.org/10.1177/0333102414539055https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24948146. (4) Loder, E., Weizenbaum, E., Frishberg, B., Silberstein, S. and (2013), Choosing Wisely in Headache Medicine: The American Headache Society’s List of Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 53: 1651-1659. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.12233https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266337.(5) Thorlund, K., Sun-Edelstein, C., Druyts, E., Kanters, S., Ebrahim, S., Bhambri, R., Ramos, E., Mills, E. J., Lanteri-Minet, M., & Tepper, S. (2016). Risk of medication overuse headache across classes of treatments for acute migraine. The journal of headache and pain, 17(1), 107. https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-016-0696-8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27882516.(6) Begasse de Dhaem, O., Burch, R., Rosen, N., Shubin Stein, K., Loder, E. and Shapiro, R.E. (2020), Workforce Gap Analysis in the Field of Headache Medicine in the United States. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 60: 478-481. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.13752https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31985046. (7) https://www.ucns.org/Online/Diplomate_Directory/Online/Diplomate_Directory.(8) The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2017-2032, AAMC, April 2019. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/new-findings-confirm-predictions-physician-shortage.
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