Noted Neurologist Dr. Ninan Mathew, 78, Passes

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HOUSTON:  As a famed neurologist who had given relief to many who suffered from debilitating headaches, Dr. Ninan T. Mathew, had another noted accomplishment in Indian circles. He was the first doctor from the still growing Indian community to have a clinic in two cities – Dallas and Houston. Though retired from full-time practice, Dr. Mathew saw his last patient on Thursday, July 23 and then celebrated his daughter Rita’s 50th birthday that evening before complaining of not feeling well that night. Mathew, 78, passed away four days later on July 27, 2015, surrounded by his family.

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Mathew’s interest in headaches started with research at Baylor College of Medicine, measuring cerebral blood flow in migraine patients. In 1976, he established Houston Headache Clinic, the first headache specialty center in Texas with outpatient and inpatient facilities for comprehensive care and later, in 1984, opened the Dallas Headache Clinic. For 35 years, Houston Headache Clinic remained a major referral and research center for treating headache patients from around the world.

Dr. Mathew served in various national and international organizations related to headache.  He was president of the International Headache Society and the American Headache Society; chairman of the Headache Section for the American Academy of Neurology, which he helped to form, and the American Council for Headache Education.

He significantly contributed to medical literature, with more than 200 scientific publications to his credit, in leading journals such as JAMA and Lancet Neurology. He edited books on cluster headache and his Handbook of Headache covers modern advances in headache. He was featured in a 2002 headache cover story in Time magazine and appeared on numerous radio and television programs for the National Migraine Foundation and the American Council for Headache Education.

In recent years, Dr. Mathew was the recipient of three Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Texas Neurological Society in 2012; the Headache Cooperative of New England in 2013; and the American Headache Society in 2014.

Ninan Mathew was born on May 21, 1937, in the southern state of Kerala in India, to T.N. and Rahel Mathai, a deeply devout Mar Thoma Syrian Christian family. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Madras in Tamil Nadu and his medical degree at Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala.  His interest in neurology started in medical school.  Post-graduate training in neurology followed at Christian Medical College, Vellore, India.

He married Sushila Abraham on May 17, 1962, moved to Houston, Texas, in the summer of 1970 and completed additional fellowship training in cerebrovascular disease and stroke at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he subsequently served as a faculty member.

In addition to his active career, Dr. Mathew was a member of Chapelwood United Methodist Church since 1978 and was involved with various cultural institutions. He was a founding member of the Indian Doctor’s Club in Houston and served as its second president.  He was president of the India Cultural Center in Houston and was on the advisory board of the Asia Society Texas Center. He and Sushila were founding patrons of the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and the Asian Galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. His interests included world traveling, antiques, and gardening, but his biggest passion was his family.

Besides his wife of 53 years, Sushila; Mathew is survived by his daughter, Rita and her husband, Paul Morico; his son, Dr. Sanjay Mathew and his wife, Dessi Sherban Mathew; his son, Vijay and his wife, Charlotte Dubuc Mathew; and six grandchildren, Rachel Morico, Mathew Morico, John Morico, Léon Mathew, Sofia Mathew, and Stefan Mathew; Sushila’s three siblings and their spouses, and dozens of loving nieces, nephews, and cousins.

The family will hold a small, private funeral and requests that, In lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to the Chapelwood Foundation, 11140 Greenbay Drive, Houston, TX 77024.