Meet Soma Sahai-Srivastava, MD, professor of clinical neurology, Department of Neurology, Keck School of Medicine of USC; medical director, Neurology Clinics; and director, USC Headache Center, Keck Medicine of USC.
Dr. Sahai is a board-certified, headache specialist who advocates for an integrated approach to the management of headache disorders. Here’s what you won’t find on her resume:
She began the USC Headache Center in 2001.
“Initially, I was treating these patients just by myself, but then slowly, I formed a multidisciplinary group. We have two physical therapists who now specialize in headache medicine. In collaboration with the occupational therapy program, we developed an eight-week Lifestyle Redesign® program for patients with chronic daily headaches. Our team also includes pain specialists and neurosurgeons, so we have a comprehensive group of physicians and health care providers specializing in headaches.”
She has had headaches and migraines herself.
“I tell a lot of my patients that I have headaches and migraines myself. Because I have tried almost all the treatments that I provide for my patients, my patients feel confident that I understand what it is to be a headache patient. It’s not a pleasant experience to have headaches, but in some ways, I feel grateful because I know what my patients are experiencing.”
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She makes it a priority to connect with her patients.
“The most important aspect for me is to come from a place of empathy. Many times, just being there for a patient is the beginning of a healing process. What I want to do is treat the person, not just the headache. I also want my patients to know me, so I offer them my most genuine self and connect with them. From there, we begin the journey to wellness together.”
Her hometown is well known to Buddhists.
“I’m from the state of Bihar located in the central heartland of India. I’m from Bodh Gaya, known as the city where the Buddha attained enlightenment.”
She followed her parents into academia.
“Both of my parents were professors. My father is a professor of Southeast Asian history. He is very well known in his field and has published extensively on the Hindu temples in Southeast Asia. My mother taught Hindi, the major language in India, and was a poet and writer. With professors as parents, I knew I wanted to be in the teaching profession, which motivated me to be a part of an academic medical center. Even if I was going to practice medicine, I wanted to be a professor, as well. I found my true calling as a neurologist and a headache specialist at USC with the help of some wonderful mentors here – my home now for almost 20 years.”
She is a painter and a musician.
“I like to paint. One of my paintings — one that I painted when I was 11 years old — hangs in my office. It is of a famous philosopher from India. As an only child, I was kept very busy learning dance and music. I learned to play the sitar, an ancient Indian stringed instrument. I also like to read English literature, and I especially like science, astronomy and nature. I am a devoted mother to two children and playing with them in the park is the highlight of my evenings.”
Cambodia is her favorite travel destination.
“I love Cambodia because I have a personal connection from my childhood. My father specializes in Cambodian history so I’ve traveled there many, many times. In fact, we at Keck Medicine of USC received a grant from the World Federation of Neurology to travel to Cambodia to teach neurology. Cambodia doesn’t have many neurologists, so I was interested in participating in international outreach.”
Dr. Sahai has established the multidisciplinary USC Headache Center at Keck Medicine of USC to care for patients with headaches, migraines and atypical facial pain.