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For One Neurologist, Success Starts by Showing Up

Dr. Teshamae Monteith strives to cure patients from crippling headaches


eurologist, headache specialist, researcher, podcaster, writer, educator — these are just a few of the hats Teshamae Monteith, M.D. ’04, wears daily.

“I’m definitely one of those people who likes to do many different things,” Dr. Monteith admitted with a laugh. “Each day looks a little different, but it all supports each other.”

There’s truth in her statement: Her week can vary widely based on her current project. You’ll find her diagnosing and treating patients or performing procedures at the University of Miami’s Headache Clinic. You might also catch her recording a podcast for the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), collaborating with her fellow program directors on the American Headache Society, or working alongside her editorial board colleagues for the AAN’s Brain & Life magazine.

“There are so many great opportunities available, you just have to show up with a sense of purpose and determination to give it your best — that’s really the first step,” said Dr. Monteith, associate professor of clinical neurology at UM’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and chief of the UHealth Headache Division. “When you do that, the opportunities just keep coming.”

This approach has helped open doors for Dr. Monteith, even as early as her days as a Miller School student. She recognizes that her time at the medical school helped pave the way for her future, including finding her calling as a headache specialist.

As Dr. Monteith describes it, she was interested in many different things as a medical student.

“I always found the brain fascinating,” she said. “I was also interested in a number of different specialties. And I realized that of all the specialties, you can get all that in neurology. You get women’s health — you can get oncology. Neurology is a huge, diverse field that’s really progressive.”

The same willingness to have an open mind and explore possibilities also let her lay a strong foundation at the Miller School.

“Being successful is all about preparing for the next step, and it starts with going to a well-respected medical school that will allow you to get the core medical education you need to become a competent physician,” she said. “It’s a small world where everyone knows everyone. It’s good to come from a place that people respect.”

That respect for the Miller School and Dr. Monteith’s hard work and academic success positioned her well to secure a residency — one that led to research opportunities in headache medicine, which ultimately led to two fellowships in that area. Fellowships that were, at the time, few and far between.

“Having two headache fellowships is rare,” she said. “There were probably only 10 or 12 fellowships when I was applying, but I was fortunate to get in, receive mentorship, and develop my own perspective.”

A happy homecoming

After her fellowships, Dr. Monteith returned to UM, once again thanks to opportunities she received from showing up and working hard. She received a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) to work with her mentor, Ralph Sacco, M.D., M.S., on the Northern Manhattan Study that looked at migraine and the risk of stroke in older adults. Dr. Sacco is professor and Olemberg Family Chair of Neurology and the executive director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the Miller School.

“Miami is home for me,” Dr. Monteith said. “Between that, the ability to work with Dr. Sacco, and the opportunity to open a headache center based on my vision made me very eager to come to Miami and start my career.”

Now, that vision includes the Headache Division in UM’s Department of Neurology, which includes herself, a nurse practitioner, fellowship opportunities, and a network of multidisciplinary collaborations.

“Headache disorders are often complex and disabling,” Dr. Monteith said. “The subspecialty of headache medicine — made available through the division — offers a broad scope of diagnostic considerations, comprehensive care, and cutting-edge treatment.”

Teshamae Monteith, M.D. ’04

Another key arm of the headache division is research and clinical trials. Dr. Monteith’s been the principal investigator for studies to evaluate CGRP monoclonal antibody treatments (an FDA-approved therapy for migraine prevention) for people with chronic migraine and medication overuse headache.

As the pandemic continues to unfold, Dr. Monteith is eager to study headache as a post-COVID-19 syndrome. Future plans for the division also include continuing to educate neurologists and encourage advanced training in headache medicine as a subspecialty.

“Ultimately, we hope to retain talent and increase the capacity of patients we’re able to care for as a leading neurology department,” she added.

All in all, her willingness to show up is paying off — for her career and her patients.