Meet a Mom: Alison Alford, MD, Founder of the Pediatric Headache Center of Richmond | Richmond Moms




Where are you originally from?

I am originally from Lancaster, PA.  


Where’d you go to school & what’s your current profession?

I went to Conestoga Valley High school and then University of Miami for my Bachelor’s.  I went to medical school at Jefferson University in Philadelphia.  Then (and yes, there is more!), I did my residency and fellowship right here at VCU. 


Where do you live today and how long have you lived in this area?

I live in Glen Allen and have been here for 9 years.  We have lived in the greater Richmond area for 16 years. 


How many children do you have & what are their ages?

I have two children.  My daughter just turned 12 and my son is almost 9. 




What are your favorite things about Richmond?

I love that it has some of the resources of a bigger city but still the smaller town feel.   It combines the styles of a lot of the places I have lived.  I like how family friendly it is and how much outdoor activity we have at our fingertips!


What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I am a Zumba instructor.  Okay, so that fact alone is not that surprising, but my personality is so much more on display on stage and I think that is surprising to people.  


Tell us about your career.

I never thought I would work with kids when I started, but once I did several rotations in medical school I loved working with kids and helping them to get better.  I felt like I was helping people who couldn’t help themselves.  I also really feel for the fear a parent can have when their kids are sick. I love helping families feel safe again.  I love teaching them about what is going on.  I felt this way even before I had my own kids. It just intensified with my kids coming into the world.  I have always found the brain fascinating and easily fell into Neurology.  So much of Neurology can be sad and when I started doing Headache Medicine, I loved that I could make people feel better.  As a migraine sufferer myself, I think I give a lot of patients a voice. I think they feel like I “get it” so to speak.  Now that I have been doing exclusively Headache Medicine for 6 years, I am so passionate about serving this often dismissed population.  


You founded the Pediatric Headache Center of Richmond: tell us more about that – how did you get started and what are you doing now?

I opened the Pediatric Headache Center of Richmond back in 2016.  I had been practicing at a hospital here for 5 years and had just gotten my second board certification in Headache Medicine.  I felt that I really wanted to focus on helping children understand and conquer their headaches.  I also really became disappointed with the way healthcare was heading.  I really wanted to bring back the old school style of medicine.  I wanted to take time with patients.  I wanted to get to know them and their families. I wanted to provide customized and individualized treatments for each patient.  I can do this and more at my own practice.  I am really proud of what we have built. I have a small but loyal team at the office and we are all passionate about the way we deliver healthcare.  We truly give a lot of ourselves to help our patients.  I think we go to a level (or fight sometimes) for our patients in a way that a lot of doctors just don’t do anymore.  I think our passion shows and I love it.  We take care of headaches, migraines, concussion, tics, and Tourette’s just to start.   We are just now expanding to include more of a wellness arm as well. This is starting with Nourish, our IV bar.  I am hoping to expand with more options including Zumba classes for patients!!


What’s the best thing about your job or business?

That I am building something for myself and that I get to see people get better. 


What’s your proudest accomplishment?

My children.  Cheesy but true. I am so proud of the people they are becoming and how they give back to the world.  I am in a constant state of awe at their kindness.



What was your biggest failure?

I struggle with being a perfectionist.  So, a lot of times my failures stem from being too afraid to start.  I am too afraid to fail sometimes.  I can have serious FOMO.


What’s the one thing you’re most passionate about?

High quality, individualized, compassionate healthcare.  Treating the whole person.  


How do you juggle work with mommyhood?

Honestly?  I don’t do it very well.  My kids understand that they share their mommy with other kids.  Sometimes I need to stay late because someone needs an MRI and I have to call the insurance.  But then, the opposite is true and when it is their time I do my best to be fully present for my time with them.  And, just like any small business owner, there are times where my business needs to be the needy child and I spend time building.  At the end of the day my kids will always come first when push comes to shove.  I do my best to get alone time with each kid, too. I want them to know they are special.  


Can you give us one pearl of wisdom, the one thing you wish more people knew?

You never know what someone else is going through sometimes just below the surface.  Be kind.  Your words in that one moment can change their day.  Your behavior has far reaching ripples and you never know who you might impact.  


How do you rely on the women of Richmond? 

I think a lot of it is supporting each other in our efforts.  No judgment.  Just holding each other up and being there.  Currently that is mostly done virtually through mom groups, for example, but it is nice to know you are not alone.  


What’s your advice to moms in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?

Don’t think your kids aren’t listening.  They are just as scared as we are about the uncertainty in the world.  Talk to them.  Allow them to ask questions.  Speak at their level, but speak.  And, don’t be afraid to let them know that you are also scared. My kids know I am human too.  I just remind them that we always have each other and we will get through this together. 


How has your job changed during COVID-19?

It was terrifying at first but now I feel like we are here to set a good example and show others how to beat this thing!


Last question – is there anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?    

No question, my husband, Lee.  I could never in a million years do what I do without his support and understanding.  In the last few years, he has been my champion to go build this business.  He is my sounding board with my new, sometimes crazy, ideas.  He has allowed me to expand my Zumba teaching as well because he knows how happy it makes me even though it takes some time away from him.  And most of all, he believes even when I don’t.  He is the optimist to my pessimist and frankly he is often right to do so. 


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