Ninan Mathew, MD, Neurologist
Dr. Ninan T. Mathew is a familiar name in the field of headache worldwide.
Dr. Mathew was born in the beautiful state of Kerala, in south India, and received his undergraduate degree at the University of Madras in Tamil Nadu and his medical degree at Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala. His interest in neurology started in medical school. Post-graduate training in neurology followed at Christian Medical College, Vellore, India. He completed additional fellowship training in cerebrovascular disease and stroke at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he subsequently served as a faculty member.
His interest in headache started through research, measuring cerebral blood flow in migraine patients while at Baylor. Early on, he realized that headache was totally ignored and poorly understood by physicians, even though it was a common malady. In the 1970’s, etiology and treatment of headache was primitive and the patients suffered needlessly with overuse of pain medication. Comorbidities of migraine were not given appropriate importance.
These factors led Dr. Mathew to establish the Houston Headache Clinic in 1976, with outpatient and inpatient facilities for comprehensive care, which was the first headache specialty center in Texas. In 1984, he started the Dallas Headache Clinic. For 35 years, Houston Headache Clinic remained a major referral and research center for treating headache patients from around the world.
Dr. Mathew has served in various national and international organizations related to headache and is a past president of the International Headache Society and the American Headache Society. He is a former chairman of the Headache Section for the American Academy of Neurology, which he helped to form. He has also served as the chairman of the American Council for Headache Education.
Dr. Mathew is one of the founding members of the international research group on cluster headache and was chairman of the Fifth International Headache Congress held in Washington, D.C., in 1991. In 1999, he chaired the Ninth International Headache Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Dr. Mathew significantly contributed to medical literature, with more than 200 scientific publications to his credit, in leading journals such as JAMA, Lancet Neurology, and Neurology. These include the first description of transformation of episodic migraine into chronic daily headache (transformed migraine or chronic migraine); clinical importance of medication overuse in determining the progression of chronic migraine; and the importance of detoxification. Dr. Mathew strongly believes that the majority of chronic headaches are migraine variants and that medication overuse and comorbidities are important factors that perpetuate the process.
He has written book chapters for numerous leading textbooks and monographs dealing with headache. He has edited books on cluster headache and his Handbook of Headache, which he co-authored with Dr. Randy Evans, covers modern advances in headache. Dr. Mathew was guest editor for several Neurologic Clinics and has served as a member of the Editorial Board of Headache and Cephalalgia. He is a frequent reviewer for Neurology, Headache, Cephalalgia, and Lancet.
Dr. Mathew is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and has been on the faculty of the courses offered at the annual meeting of the Academy. He is an invited lecturer on headache in medical meetings and universities in the United States and abroad. His lecture topics include chronic daily headache, drug-induced (analgesic rebound) headache, and cluster headache. He was featured in a 2002 headache cover story in Time Magazine and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs for the National Migraine Foundation and the American Council for Headache Education.
Dr. Mathew has trained a number of physicians from various countries who have done fellowships at the Houston Headache Clinic. He has participated in clinical trials of new medications for headache therapy and has directed more than 100 such studies.
Dr. Mathew has been the recipient of several American Headache Society Awards, including the 1976 Harold G. Wolff Lecture Award and the 1994 John R. Graham Distinguished Clinician Award.
In February 2012, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Neurological Society at its annual conference in Austin, Texas.
In addition to his active career, Dr. Mathew is involved with various cultural institutions. He was a founding member of the Indian Doctor’s Club in Houston and served as its second president. He was president of the India Cultural Center also in Houston and is on the advisory board of the Asia Society Texas Center. He is a founding patron of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and the Asian Galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His interests include traveling, antiques, and gardening.
He and his wife, Sushila Abraham Mathew, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in May 2012. Dr. Mathew has three children and five grandchildren.