Advocating for Patients With Migraine Through Research Initiatives: Serena L. Orr, MD, MSc


The pediatric neurologist and headache specialist at the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital spoke about the need for improved funding and research efforts for the migraine population. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

“If you look at NIH funding for headache and migraine, whether you look at NIH funding for children and adolescent studies or adult studies, we are the most underfunded of diseases relative to disease burden… As a researcher, I always think of advocacy from a research lens because if we want to provide better care for our patients, the only way to do that going forward with care that’s based in evidence is to do more research. And, in order to do research, we have to have funding.”

Patients with migraine—particularly the children and adolescent populations—are faced with a great burden of disease. According to the World Health Organization, it is often listed among the most disabling, with the Global Burden of Disease Study placing it among the top 10 highest causes worldwide of years lost due to disability.1 Despite this, it remains among the least-funded disorders for research.

For headache specialists like Serena L. Orr, MD, MSc, a pediatric neurologist at University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital, this is all too clear from their clinical practice experience. But the data also back up these difficulties—and suggest that these patients also experience comorbidities that can add to such challenges. A recent analysis presented by Orr at the 2022 American Headache Society (AHS) Annual Scientific Meeting, June 9-11, in Denver, Colorado, suggested a large association between migraine and anxiety symptoms and a moderate association between migraine and depressive symptoms.2

Orr explained to NeurologyLive® that in order to address this for patients and simultaneously advocate for their needs, there is a clear imperative to call for more federal funding for research, like what is done during the Headache on the Hill initiative from the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy.3 For Orr, the key to improving clinical care is a better understanding of the situation at hand. The more physicians can learn about migraine and the best approaches to treating it—and the more physicians who join the field—the better off that patients will be as a result.

Click here for more coverage of AHS 2022.

1. Headache disorders. WHO website. Updated April 8, 2016. Accessed July 7, 2022.
2. Orr SL, Fall K, Kuziek J, Mahnaz SR, Noel M, Ronksley PE. OR-19: Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms and Disorders in Children and Adolescents with Migraine: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Presented at: AHS Annual Scientific Meeting; June 9-11, 2022; Denver, CO. OR-19
3. Headache on the Hill. Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy website. Accessed July 7, 2022.
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