To examine the current headache medicine fellowship application process and to propose recommendations for a more unified, systematic, and transparent process.
We identified 42 headache fellowship programs using the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties certification database. After an initial contact via e-mail, we conducted individual telephone interviews with program directors. Qualitative data coding allowed identification of emerging themes. Quantitative data were summarized with descriptive statistics.
Forty (95%) program directors (34 adult, 6 pediatric) responded. Emerging themes included the following. (1) There are benefits and disadvantages to having a match. (2) If the match were reinstated, programs would participate only if all programs participated. (3) There should be consequences for programs that do not participate. If the match were reinstated, 37.5% of program directors responded that their program would participate without conditions; 37.5% would participate only if every program were required to participate. Fifteen percent would not participate, and 10% were not sure if they would participate. Forty percent supported sanctions against programs that did not participate in the match.
The fellowship match potentially makes the process more systematic for both programs and applicants; however, it does not currently appear to be a feasible option for the field of headache medicine. Until the number of applicants exceeds the number of programs, we recommend instituting a universal timeline for applications and offers.