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The Match Game

I am a Migraine patient educator and advocate with no headache specialist.

Surprised? With 37 million Migraineurs and only 290 headache specialists to treat them, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do the math.

As you read this, I am heading to Los Angeles and the American Headache Society’s annual Scientific Meeting, surrounded by the world’s headache and Migraine rock stars. Literally everywhere I look there are people I have admired for years, and I am like a star struck idiot.

So, when I write this post it is with true wistful longing that I describe my dream doctor. I know they’re out there, for I have met them in the flesh! For me however, the search is ongoing.

Finding the right doctor is a bit like finding the right mate… You can’t just throw two people together and expect them to *work*. There’s a lot that goes into a good health care partnership, and a good portion of it doesn’t belong on a laundry list of desirable traits. That said, I’m going to give it a good try in the form of my (not so serious, but serious)…

10 commandments for the ultimate doctor.

#1. Thou shalt have no other patients before me. When I am in thy room, givest me thy kind undivided attention. Thou shalt treat me as if I am your only patient. Readest thou my history and ask pertinent questions, but respect me and do not interrupt me, for though you are blessed with great learning, I am the expert of my body. Thou shalt diligently keep in good contact with me, returning phone calls promptly, for my time is also valuable. Thou shalt promptly send me my records, lab and imaging results, for thine aren’t mine only physician.

#2. Thou shalt not create in your mind the patient you’d like to see, but be content with the patient before you. Flaws and all. Thou shalt check thy ego at thy door, for thou knowest in thine heart that we are both human beings. Thou hast great knowledge of thy books, but yea, I have great knowledge of my body, my symptoms and my disease. Together, we shall listen and learn and conquer the beast that troubles me.

#3. Thou shalt not speak of me or mine condition in a derogatory manner. ‘Tis a difficult task to remember when thou art stressed, but important to me. For every time thou speakest in a derogatory manner or makes sport of another patient, thou hast created an atmosphere that influences staff and results in substandard care, disrespect and potential harm to thy patients. Verily, it will be overheard by patients and staff, and they shall live out their days wondering what thou hast said about them, and distrust shall rule all the land.

#4. Thou shalt be available to patients. Thou shalt provide them reliable staff and up to date communication tools so when thee takest needed time out for thyself and thy family, patients feel secure knowing they will not be forgotten when they are sick, hurting, frightened or in need of care.

#5. Thou shalt keep up to date in thy field of expertise. Thou shalt take the time needed to stay current in thy journal reading and thy continuing education credits so thou shant order antiquated tests or prescribe antiquated medication protocols. Because thou shalt follow commandment #4, this shall be an easy task. Thou shalt acknowledge online tools available to patients and shalt not chastise them when they bring forth journal articles nor questions resulting from their efforts to participate in their own health care. Thou shalt address thy patient’s questions and respect them for being proactive patients, and thou shalt not then leave the room and break commandment #3.

#6. Thou shalt always do thy very best for each patient and their families. When necessary, thou shalt talk to patients and families after hours or over lunch, and spend time researching for thine patients’ best interests. For while thee takest thy time, thy patients suffereth greatly. Thou shalt not overbook patients, but shall sometimes schedule fewer patients when they needest additional attention. Thou shalt acknowledge when ye are clueless, and shalt give out carefully researched and timely referrals whenever necessary. Above all, thou shalt remember that “Do No Harm” refers to the body, mind and spirit of the patient and their families.

#7. Thou shalt not utilize cookbook medicine. For thine patients are different one from the other, and the disease they suffer shall not follow rules nor laws. When thy medicine fails, thou shalt not give up on the patient and call them hopeless, but ye shall converse with other doctors, pharmacists and caretakers to glean new ideas which might help thy patient live a better life.

#8. Thou shalt be forthcoming and honest: to patients by not ordering unnecessary testing or office visits, treatments you know will be unsuccessful, and expensive medications when cheaper versions will suffice. Thou shalt not sell thine own products at an exorbitant fee when they are available elsewhere for less. Thou shalt treat patients as human beings and consumers as ye did when ye first struggled to build thy practice.

#9. Thou shalt not give up. Thou shalt never tell a patient they are “hopeless” or need to “learn to live with it”. Whilst thou may become discouraged ye will remember that the patient who lives with the disease struggles every moment of their life. Thou shalt seek the root cause of a problem when possible, and shall not ignore symptoms. Thou shalt use a diagnosis of psychogenic, psychiatric or psychological only after all other stones have been turned. Thou shalt assume first that symptoms are physiologic in nature before assuming a mental diagnosis.

#10. Thou shalt be a learned friend. Treat thy patients with the respect ye would like to see shown to thine own family members. Remember that thy white coat ye wearest signifies learning, but not godlinesss. Know thy patients as a friend would, for in this way ye will help create a good partnership with them, and shall be less likely to miss subtle changes they may not think to ask thee about. Remember thy patients are human beings and so much more than their diseases. Remember that healing of thy body requires healing of the psyche and thy soul as well.


This is a rough list and a lot of physicians will look at it and feel that I am asking for too much. However, I have had physicians who were the perfect example of what this list illustrates. I know it is possible.

Am I expecting too much? Perhaps. But I prefer to shoot for the moon and end up among the stars, than settle for something else because I didn’t feel like trying.


National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • caradrouin
    6 years ago

    Sadly, many insurances and big corporate providers requires Dr.s to see a certain number of patients per hour on a certain number of days per week. This makes it hard to them to spend more time with one patient and restricts the time they need for keeping current. There are SO many different policies that even if you have better than average coverage, the care you get is often to the lowest common denominator. Staff…. how many times have I had problems with dr’s staff…… I’ve had staff diagnose me on the phone and refuse to take a message or make an appointment.

  • janiceclemens
    7 years ago

    Do you know how many time I have been told I need to learn to live with it? Too many to count. Today is a really bad day. Had to leave work early yesterday due to the migraine from hell, and it continued into today and had to call out of work. Severe migraine, nausea and vomiting. The only upside is I work for my PCP so he totally understands, but I have no time left so I don’t get paid for being out today. With my husband only intermittently working , thanks to our economy,he is a construction foreman, this just really sucks. But I can barely sit and type this at the moment. Am goin gto go lay down in a nice dark room with no light, noise or even my dogs . I gave up on the ER . They are of no help. I have been to 2 neurologists who only want to TRY me on different meds.(I am not a guinea pig) None of which have worked so far. The triptans give me chest and jaw pain but I tolerate the side effects if I get relief. The Maxalt I tool this AM I promptly vomited back up.
    Tired of the same answers all the time. The closest migraine specialist to me is 3-4 hours away and of course they don’t take my insurance, and the cost of a first visit is between $500-$700 dollars out of pocket.I called yo see what the cost would be. Well that’s not even a consideration. We don’t have 2 nickels to rub together right now..Just try to pay the basics and the mortgage and get by . The only relief I have really ever got was from an Acupuncturist who was awesome, but of course it is considered alternative medicine and insurance doesn’t cover that. We just don’t have $65.00 3 x a week for me to go. Maybe eventually I can go back .

  • mygrainegirl
    7 years ago

    Hello. I have just the doctor for you in LA. His name is Dr. Steven Graff-Radford. He is at Cedars Sinai. Because of him, I literally have my life back (or damn close). He follows your ten commandments. You will love him. He is literally a miracle worker. I had migraines 5-7 days per week and was in the ER every 5-7 days. No meds seemed to really work. I was always in bed, in pain, and getting another migraine. Now I get a migraine 2-3 days per week, but they only last 20 mins, not 2-4 days, and the meds he prescribes make the migraine go away in a miraculous 20 minutes. I had been to countless doctors before finding him and none of them had answers for me. I had be hospitalized and given narcotics around the clock for a week to break the migraine by neurologist and all that did was make me feel like my soul was being ripped from my body. No bueno. Anyway, if you are truly seeking a cure to your migraines, you owe it to yourself to contact Dr. Graff-Radford: 310-423-9872. Live well.
    Karen H.

  • tucker
    7 years ago

    Yes, it is hard. My current PCP did his darn best but wasn’t really trained in the field. I settled on a “recommended” neuro in town (really 45 min away) that 3 of us at work used – guess what – totally cookbook for all 3, though for the 3rd person she didn’t do the injections – shocking! – though like me, when a medical complication came up (mine was totally within the realm of a neuro’s capabilities but being handled by my PCP) she dumped us, referring us to “pain management”.

    I now drive 2 hours to a headache specialist practice of neuros and while my favorite doc left in Dec (sadly to become a hospitalist I just found out a couple days ago), the new doc I was assigned finally talked to me at my 3rd visit after I asked if I could switch while I was waiting to be seen. So I will still see the other doc for my botox in 3 months to test those waters, but I am coming back midway to see her again for another visit b/c she actually had some ideas and is having me do some homework.

    I will say this, communication is 90% of the deal, just like you say. I can look up all I want, but in the end, I still need the thoughts and ideas of an expert to help me figure out MY body. And esp with a complicated medical history, I don’t need a bad doc dumping me on pain management. I was in tears Mon at my appt telling her how bad I felt last week after a week of brain pain, trying to function as a mom, employee, human, just trying to walk my dog around the block and collapsing 3 times in tears from pain from the start of yet another migraine to ruin one of my few weekends off to spend with my kids.

    So Hooray to the 10 commandments. Yes Doctors are Humans too and have lives and families and too many patients to worry about. But for that 15 minutes of time, can they just focus on us? Take 2 minutes outside the room to skim thru our chart, brush up on us if they don’t remember us or learn about us if we are new to them. Make us feel special for just 15 minutes. Return our calls for urgent questions in a timely fashion. Return calls to the pharmacy for refills or let them know why they are denying them. Help us to help ourselves. And believe me, we will be better patients and be forever grateful to them also.

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