IT’S NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Richard A. (Red) Lawhern, PhD, is a longtime patient advocate and Web author, although his doctorate (UCLA 1976) is in engineering systems, not medicine. He is a technically trained medical layman who reads a huge volume of medical literature and remembers a lot of it. He began researching chronic neurological facial pain in 1996, when his spouse presented with pain diagnosed as bilateral Vaso-Glossopharyngeal and Trigeminal Neuralgia. He served the US Trigeminal Neuralgia Association (TNA) as Webmaster and a member of its Board of Directors in the late 1990s, co-authored the design of the TNA National Patient Survey in 2000-2001, and contributed to a more recent survey version by the TNA Medical Advisory Board. He is no longer affiliated with TNA management or site administration.
Red currently provides information research and referral support to chronic facial pain patients through TNA Connect, the TNA Network, LivingwithTN.org, and a Neurological Disorders support group at WebMD. He has done similar volunteer work in the past at About.com. His 2001 redesign of the TNA home page was acknowledged by an Aesculapius Award of Excellence in Health Communications from the Health Improvement Institute. He is also credited as a contributor in the Internet Resources appendix of “Striking Back — the Trigeminal Neuralgia Handbook” (first edition).
In the 18+ years of his work in chronic pain patient advocacy and support, he has corresponded by e-mail with more than 5,000 patients, family members, and physicians around the world. Membership of “Living With TN” has increased from 1200 to 4500 in the three years he has supported the site as Resident Research Analyst. It would probably be fair to say that Red has talked — as an informed layman — with more chronic facial pain patients than the average neurologist sees in a 40-year career of practice. In the context of Mad in America, Dr. Lawhern’s primary interests are in correcting the mis-application of psychosomatic medicine to patients who have otherwise unexplained chronic pain or symptoms of rare medical disorders.