Dr. NINAN T MATHEW
Dr. Ninan T. Mathew, a highly respected figure in academic headache circles around the world, passed away on July 27, 2015 in Houston, Texas, USA.
Dr. Mathew hailed from Kerala and obtained his medical degree from Trivandrum Medical College. Even as a medical student, he was interested in Neurology and did his post-graduate training from Christian Medical College, Vellore where he came under the influence of stalwarts like Jacob Abraham and Jacob Chandy. He then moved to Houston in 1970 and completed his fellowship in Cerebrovascular disease and Stroke at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
His interest in ‘headache’ started through research on cerebral blood flow in migraine, with the late John Stirling Meyer. Around this time, he noted that headache problems were not being addressed adequately and that headache treatment was also suboptimal. With the aim of bridging this gap, he established the Houston Headache Clinic in 1976. Gradually ‘headache’ also came to be better recognized and for many years, the Houston Headache Clinic remained a major referral and research centre for headache patients from around the world.
Dr.Mathew had more than 200 scientific publications to his credit, in leading journals such as Cephalalgia, Headache, Neurology JAMA and Lancet. Some of his landmark contributions included 1) the first description of transformation of episodic migraine into chronic daily headache (transformed migraine), a term many headache specialists like, as it appropriately describes the evolution of the entity and 2) recognition of the clinical importance of medication overuse in determining the progression to chronic migraine and the importance of detoxification. He was actively involved in conducting clinical trials of new medications for headache therapy and was often first author on significant papers.
Dr.Mathew was President of the International Headache Society (IHS) and the American Headache Society (AHS). He was Chairman of the Headache Section of the American Academy of Neurology, and the American Council for Headache Education. He was 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. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society and was also the recipient of three Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Texas Neurological Society in 2012; the Headache Cooperative of New England in 2013; and the American Headache Society in 2014. He has written chapters for many leading textbooks and monographs dealing with headache and has served on the Editorial Board of Headache and Cephalalgia.
Dr.Mathew was very keen that teaching and training in Headache Medicine should spread across the globe, particularly in countries where the specialty was not well established. He did a lot of teaching in India. Neurologists looked forward to his annual visits and he made it a point to attend the meetings of the Indian Academy of Neurology, to meet friends and to teach. He trained a number of interested clinicians from South America, India and Europe who did their Fellowship at the Houston Headache Clinic and went on to establish Headache Clinics in their own country, along similar lines. He also helped them establish their careers in the ‘headache’ field in their country. I was one amongst the many students to have been taught the art of Headache Management by Dr.Mathew.
In addition to his academic career, Dr.Mathew’s interests included travelling, collecting antiques and gardening. He liked watching movies and listening to old Hindi songs. But his strongest passion was his family. He is survived by his wife Sushila, his daughter Rita and sons Sanjay and Vijay and several grandchildren.
In his final years, Dr.Mathew knew he had a tough battle with his illness but still remained upbeat. He was not only a sound clinician and great researcher but he was also a physician who really cared for his patients. He showed us the way and brought so many along with him to carry on after he was gone. May His Soul rest in peace!
K. Ravishankar, Mumbai.