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Women in Migraine

Prof. Gisela Terwindt, International Headache Society’s Women’s Leadership Forum

Prof. Gisela Terwindt

Prof. Gisela Terwindt is professor of neurology, in particular paroxysmal brain disorders, at the Department of Neurology of the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC). She is director of the Leiden Headache Center and deputy head of the Department of Neurology. She is chair of the International Headache Society (IHS) Clinical Guideline Committee and the Women’s Leadership Forum. In addition, she is board member and chair of the Scientific Committee the Dutch Headache Society.


In this interview with Prof. Gisela Terwindt, we asked her about what inspired her to pursue a career in the headache field and her work as chair of the International Headache Society’s Women’s Leadership Forum.

How can we recruit more women to the field of migraine research and in leading roles?

Ensure that women are included in the (sub)committees of the IHS, e.g., have double chairs for committees with both sexes. Help them to come further, inform them what they need to do to expand their networks.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the headache field?

This was purely based on my scientific interest and drive.

What has been one main obstacle that you experienced as a woman in research?

As long as you are a PhD and/or resident in Neurology, there is not a problem, but as soon as you receive a position it will become difficult. Strong women leadership is still not appreciated, and to obtain a leaderships role is difficult as men tend to select other men who resemble themselves.

What would be your advice to aspiring female researchers hoping for a future career in the headache field, possibly in a leading role?

Search for a mentor, stay strong or give up. Many women actually do give up due to all the resistance they experience. Although seemingly female researchers/physicians may have a good position, there are still many obstacles to be promoted for a better appointment (within the hospital, national, and international).

What motivated you to pursue your inspiring involvement in the International Headache Society’s Women’s Leadership Forum, which you chair?

I was asked by David Dodick to lead this forum. Due to the involvement of the other members and a young female PhD-student of my group, we were able to send out a survey. We hope to publish the results soon. However, I am not sure how we should proceed and what will be most effective. Maybe, ask the Leadership Forum to suggest possible candidates in case of vacancy of new positions at the International Headache Society, as many women are capable but not asked for positions.