May 27, 2024

Spotlight on Highly-Regarded Vice-Chair Olivia Begasse de Dhaem, MD, FAHS

GPAC Vice-Chair Olivia Begasse de Dhaem, MD, FAHS has no doubt made a huge difference to her patients. Yet to her, it’s not enough. Working in a highly specialized clinic, she is only able to see a small number of the people who live with migraine and that’s not enough. For the headache specialist, neurologist and advocate there is more to be done to end the stigma and improve care for migraine around the world.   

“I don’t see medicine having borders. I think we’re all interdependent,” she says. “Especially with technology and development, we can do better than that. I think we can think of disease management and prevention on a global scale.”

Dr. Begasse de Dhaem is inspired by working with people from across the globe. She attended the Global Patient Advocacy Summit in Seoul, and was amazed by the variety of stories that were shared from all corners of the world. 

“I know we come from very different circumstances and background, but at the end of the day, the human experience of the disease is actually very similar,” she says. “It blew my mind how openly people were sharing their stories despite coming from areas with even higher stigma, than in the USA. It gives me hope that progress is being made.” 

Focusing on the Mission

To continue to advance the goals of GPAC, Dr. Begasse de Dhaem says the organization must efficiently work toward expanding its mission while staying focused on its vision. One way they will do this is by making use of limited resources and working with other patient organizations and scientific organizations within migraine and related domains. 

“I think if we work as a team, we are stronger and we can accomplish more,” she says. 

One area of work that Dr. Begasse de Dhaem is particularly passionate about is migraine in the workplace. Up to one in five employees are impaired by migraine at work and experience backlash from employers. Workplace programs that provide education through webinars, newsletters and online materials, can create a more positive environment and have been shown to increase workplace productivity by 29–36%. 

“My hope is that we can try to make things better for people in the workplace as soon as possible,” she says. “We cannot put the burden on the people who are suffering the most. We have to try to reduce this burden.”

She would eventually like to see similar programs in schools to provide support to people as early as possible. Educating administrators, staff, faculty, school nurses and students could combat the stigma that students experience and help people earlier. 

While migraine has often been called an “invisible disease” because symptoms are not as obvious as others, Dr. Begasse de Dhaem says we can’t lose sight of the importance of educating people about one of the most disabling diseases on the planet. 

“People say migraine is invisible, but do not think that it’s invisible if you pay attention,” says Dr. Begasse de Dhaem. 


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