AANEM’s Scientific Impact Award recognizes mid-career members for serving as a first author, second author, or last (senior) author on a published paper in a national or international peer-reviewed, indexed journal within the past 2 years.
Raghav Govindarajan, MD, has been awarded one of AANEM’s 2022 Scientific ImpactAwards, for his work as the senior author on Anti-Calcitonin Gene–Related Peptide Monoclonal Antibodiesfor Neuropathic Pain in Patients With Migraine Headache, published in Muscle & Nerve.
Govindarajan’s interest in research began when he was in medical school. “I had really good mentors when I was doing my medical degree back in India, and one of my mentors was a neurologist. I did research with him on neuropathy.” That experience drove Govindarajan to specialize in neurology, too. After graduating medical school at Bangalore Medical College, he moved to the US and completed a neurology residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and a fellowship in NM medicine at Washington University.
Govindarajan was particularly inspired by his residency mentor, Dr. Salanga. “He was a NM physician and a very astute clinician. He reminded me of Sherlock Holmes, putting clues together to find answers for patients.”
Since then, Govindarajan has found research to be a big part of his career. “In order to move the science forward and improve patient care, you need to do research and find innovative ways to understand and treat diseases. Research forces you to think deeply about challenges and beyond the clinic work that you do. If you like to explore, if you like to be creative and find out new things, I think research is something that will satisfy you.”
Govindarajan is currently a neurologist at HSHS Medical Group and is an adjunct professor of neurology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and Andrew Taylor Still School of Medicine. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, edited 5 books, and received 20 research grants. He has been awarded more than 50 teaching awards including the National Golden Apple Award from the American Medical Student Association and the American Academy of Neurology’s clerkship director teaching award.
Some of his most recent research explored the role of anti-CGRP therapy for neuropathic pain. Although clinical studies have shown anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies are highly efficacious for migraine headache prophylaxis, their effects on nonheadache chronic pain conditions, including neuropathic pain, in humans are unknown. “I wanted to see if you could also use anti-CGRP treatments to help with neuropathic pain,” he said. “We have treatments for neuropathy, but the field has not moved forward as much as we’d like to see. There have not been new treatments for neuropathic pain.”
In his study, Govindarajan tracked migraine headaches and neuropathy pain for patients who were on anti-CGRP treatment. With treatment of anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies, patients reported a 41.7% decrease in NPS scores from 89.3 at baseline to 52.1 at 12 months posttreatment (P < .05), in addition to a decrease in monthly headache days. “We found that anti-CGRP treatment helps neuropathic pain get better. It doesn’t work right away, but with
time, you do see a decline in the neuropathic pain.”
This research provides preliminary evidence that anti-CGRP treatment might be useful in treating neuropathic pain. “We need bigger clinical trials to confirm, but this provides preliminary evidence needed to pursue something like that,” he said.
Govindarajan completed this research with one of his students, Seung Ah Kang, BA. “I was lucky to have a good student who could help me put this project together and write the paper.”
Govindarajan enjoys being able to mentor and teach students. “I’ve been doing the same thing for years, but when I teach something to my students, it’s new for them. They are always so happy to learn, and to see that on their faces - it reenergizes me and makes my days even better.”
The most rewarding part of being an educator is seeing his students succeed. “I came to the US from India, and when I came here, I didn’t know anyone. My parents couldn’t imagine coming to the US, so when I went, it was their dream. My dream was to train at some of the top institutions in the US. So when I see my students going to places I couldn’t even dream of - it’s incredible. Seeing them there makes me happy, and is a dream come true.”
The greatest piece of advice he gives to students is to never stop learning. “Be positive, be humble, and be ready to learn - the learning will never stop. Every day, your goal should be to learn something new. Keep moving forward.”