Headquartered in Stamford, CT, the New England Institute for Neurology and Headache (NEINH) is a multi-disciplinary, tertiary care neurology and headache center. NEINH employs a holistic, patient-centered model to treat complex headachesand concussions, along with disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy, stroke, Lyme disease and complex neurological mysteries. They also perform cutting-edge clinical research, with current studies focused on headaches in adults and children(including migraine, cluster, and post-traumatic headache), Alzheimer’s, MS, Tourettes Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, spasticityand more.
Dr. Kate Mullin is leading those clinical trial initiatives as Medical Director of Clinical Research. Board-certified in Neurology and Headache Medicine, this mom of two boys (Owen is 7 and Jameson is 4) treats adults and teens with all types of headaches, concussions and pain in the face, jaw, and neck. Recently, we spoke with Dr. Mullin about her life as a doctor and mother—and her secret to balancing both roles.
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in this area?
I was born and raised in Bronxville, NY. I lived in New York City for ten years, where I attended medical school and met my husband. When we decided to start a family we figured it was time to get out of the Big Apple. I convinced him to move back to Bronxville, where we have now been for 8 years.
What’s the biggest myth about headaches?
By far the biggest misconception is when people say “it’s just a headache”. Headaches can be incredibly painful and debilitating. Just because an MRI is normal or blood work is unrevealing, doesn’t mean the patient isn’t suffering greatly.
Why did you choose this part of Neurology to specialize in?
Oddly enough, I chose Headache Medicine before I chose Neurology. When I was in medical school at NYU I had a mentor who was a brilliant female neurologist but also had the best bedside manner I had ever witnessed—and she was a headache doctor. I was mesmerized at how adeptly she could transition from talking to her patients about medications, procedures, and pain scales to uncovering an upcoming stressful life events, relationship trouble, sleep and eating habits, etc. Everything around us impacts our brains and a headache specialist has to be comfortable talking about everything with their patients. And vice versa. I knew I had that quality and that headache medicine was the right choice for me. I feel even more fortunate now that I chose headache medicine way back then because since starting my career ten years ago, the treatment choices have expanded dramatically with new procedures, new devices and now an entirely new category of medications called the CGRP blockers. You read so much about concussions these days.
Is that an area of focus for you?
I see a lot of high school athletes in my practice. Concussions are a big deal these days. Parents are being extra cautious to get their kids tested early and often to make sure that they are doing the right thing and not rushing back into sports/school etc. We’ve learned a lot in recent years about the consequences of multiple concussions (CTE for example) and consecutive concussions and parents are taking that seriously, which I really appreciate. As I say to my patients and their parents: This is your only brain. You don’t get a do-over.
What do you love about working in this area?
I love working in this area because my patient population is so variable. I can see a high school junior from King School at 1 followed by a 72-year-old retired accountant from Rye. At the same time—despite the large geographic and demographic ranges—the communities in this area are very close knit and rely on each other for recommendations and information. I have found that word of mouth from patient to patient travels far and fast. Which, as a doctor new to the area and to New England Institute of Neurology and Headache, I really appreciate that.
How is clinical research helpful to your patients?
Through our clinical research program, we are able to provide patients with access to new, exciting treatments before they hit the market. For example, as a tertiary care headache center, many of our most complex patients have exhausted standard treatment options. For them, enrolling in a clinical study is a greatwayto try an innovative therapy when standard medicines have failed. And as a bonus, all clinical studies are completely free, and patients are compensated for time and travel.
Do you like working in a multi-disciplinary medical model?
I love it, and patients clearly benefit form all the services we have to offer. In addition to neurologists, at NEINH we have psychologists, physical, occupational and speech therapy, social workers, therapeutic massage, biofeedback, infusion therapy, and of course our research program. I believe a team approach is essential for the highest quality patient care and best outcomes.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
Where do I begin? I feel like everyone you cross paths with, especially as an impressionable new mother, has some influence on your choices. When my oldest son was a baby, we organized a mom group that tried to get together once a week. The kids were initially two young to appreciate the socialization—it was more for all the moms to ask questions, vent, bounce ideas off of each other—but most importantly to feel like people. I really think that group got me through the first six months of parenthood.
What do you love to do as a family?
Right now the whole family is into building Legos. My husband and I race home from work to finish a project with the boys. Family movie night is also high up on my list.
How do you balance your two big roles as mom and physician?
Like most working moms, I have a million balls in the air at all times, and every night I go to sleep I feel lucky that I managed to keep them all up (after double and triple checking in my head for an hour that I did actually manage to keep them all up). While it’s not an option for everyone, I have found that working four days a week has made an incredible difference in my balancing act. On the weekends, I can really be present with my family. I save the laundry, groceries, changing sheets, paperwork etc. (all the glamorous mom chores), for my day off so we can spend our time together doing things that we enjoy and not just checking boxes.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about you?
I love hosting events. In my next life I’ll be a party planner. I have boxes in my basement filled with theme-related party supplies/tablescapes etc. And I will never turn down a costume party. I am a big believer in not taking yourself too seriously and what better way to show that then dressing up in ridiculous regalia?
This post is sponsored by the New England Institute for Neurology & Headache, located at 30 Buxton Farm Road (Ste 230) in Stamford. To find out more or book an appointment, go to neinh.com or call (203) 914-1900.