Headache in Medical Education: Medical Schools, Neurology and Family Practice Residencies


  • R. Michael Gallagher DO,

  • Rolande Alam DO,

  • Shiwan Shah BS,

  • Loretta Mueller DO,

  • James J. Rogers DO

  • From the University Headache Center, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine, Moorestown, NJ.

Address all correspondence to R. Michael Gallagher, 513 South Lenola Road, Moorestown, NJ 08057.


Objective.—To explore the extent of headache education received by medical students and residents.

Background.—Headache is a common, often severe, and sometimes disabling problem. However, 49% of sufferers do not seek professional treatment—of those who do, only 28% are very satisfied. One possible reason is limited education of physicians about headache.

Methods.—Surveys were sent to all allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, 200 family medicine residencies, and all 126 neurology residencies. Information requested included the amount and perceived adequacy of headache education and any plans to increase headache education.

Results.—Response rates were 35% to 40%. Medical school lecture hours ranged from 0 (4%) to >5 (24%) with 92% having no plans for an increase in headache education. Family Medicine residency lecture hours ranged from 1–3 (30%) to >5 (34%) and case presentations from 1–5 (23%) to >5 (41%), with 88% of program directors having no plans for increase. Neurology residency lecture hours ranged from 1–3 (11%) to >5 (64%) and case presentations from 1–5 (23%) to >10 (57%), with 80% having no plans for increase.

Conclusion.—Undergraduate medical education in headache is limited. Despite medical schools perceiving their training as adequate, both neurology and family practice residency program directors believe entering residents are inadequately prepared in headache upon entering the program.