Robert P. Cowan, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Headache and facial pain specialist, Neurologist, General neurologist, Headache specialist

Clinical Professor, Neurology & Neurological Sciences Clinical Professor (By courtesy), Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine

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Additional Languages Spoken:
French , Spanish


Dr. Cowan is a neurologist with board certification in neurology, pain medicine, and headache medicine. He is a professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and (by courtesy) in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine. He is Director of Headache Research and holds the endowed position of the Betty Higgins Family Foundation Directorship in Headache Research.

Dr. Cowan has held several nationally elected positions, including chair of the sections on Chronic Daily Headache and In-office Patient Education for the American Headache Society. He is past president of the Headache Cooperative of the Pacific and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. He has served on the boards of the Alliance for Headache Diseases Advocacy, the Headache Cooperative of the Pacific, the American Headache and Migraine Association, and the American Council for Headache Education.

His research focuses on advancing the understanding of chronic daily headache. He has received grants to support his research from the National Institutes of Health, foundations, and industry, as well as private grants and gifts.

Dr. Cowan is widely published in peer-reviewed journals, including Headache and Neurology. He reviews articles for Headache and other publications and is an editor for Headache Currents. He has authored the book The Keeler Migraine Method and Chronic Daily Headache, as well as multiple textbook chapters.

He has presented his work at meetings of the American Academy of Neurology and International Headache Society, and other organizations, and lectures both nationally and internationally on diverse headache topics. He has appeared on network television and been featured in articles in publications ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times to Vogue Magazine.

Dr. Cowan educates the headache specialists of the future as a professor in the School of Medicine, as a senior fellow in the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, and as a mentor for the American Brain Foundation.

He is a member of the American Headache Society, American Academy of Neurology, and Headache Cooperative of the Pacific.

He has volunteered his time and expertise to serve the Alliance for Patient Access, Veterans Administration, and community health programs.

Professional Summary

Education & Certifications
  • Medical Education: University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine (1986) CA
  • Residency: LACplusUSC Neurology Residency (1990) CA
  • Internship: LACplusUSC Medical Center Internal Medicine Residency (1987) CA
  • Board Certification: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Neurology (1994)
  • Board Certification, Unified Council of Neurologic Subspecialties, Headache Medicine (2008)
  • Board Certification, American Academy of Pain Medicine (2000)

Honors & Awards
  • Chief Resident, LAC/USC, Los Angeles, California (1989)
  • Fellow, American Academy of Neurology (2006)
  • Fellow, American Headache Society (2010)
  • Magna Cum Laude, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts (1972)
  • Woodrow Wilson Scholar, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts (1972)

Administrative Appointments
  • Betty Higgins Family Foundation Director, Neurology (2017 - Present)
  • Chair, Refractory Headache Special Interest Section, American Headache Society, American Headache Society (2012 - 2016)
  • Director of Headache Research, Stanford University School of Medicine (2022 - Present)
  • Director,Stanford Headache Program, Stanford University School of Medicine (2011 - 2022)
  • President, Headache Cooperative of the Pacific (2012 - 2016)
  • Program Director, Headache Cooperative of the Pacific (2007 - 2011)
  • Vice President, Headache Cooperative of the Pacific (2007 - 2012)


Clinical Trials

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Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.

Specializing In

Practice Locations

Facial Pain Program at the Neuroscience Health Center Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto, CA

213 Quarry Road

Palo Alto , CA 94304

(650) 497-7777

Make An Appointment More Clinic Information » Getting Here »

Headache Clinic Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto, CA

Patient Ratings

(2 Ratings)

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Patient Reviews

(119 reviews)

Very supportive with lots of very useful information. Great doctor
Very nice man, seemed to listen
Dr. Cowan and Dr. Zaveri took interest in my concerns and asked a lot of questions to address my issues. Appreciated the feedback and willingness to look over my MRI from another Healthcare provider. Thank you.
I had a great pleasure having a visit with Dr. Cowan. He is a great listener with a very nice sense of humor. He takes into the account all concerns and explains his thoughts very well. I had a great pleasure having him as my doctor for the visit.
Professional, easy to communicate with, problem solving with options.
I appreciate and respect him a lot
The visit was very helpful and informative. Dr. Cowan answered all my questions, gave necessary recommendations and prescriptions. I am greatly thankful to Dr. Cowan
Wonderful, kind doctor with excellent communication and made me feel understood.
I am so incredibly blessed to see Dr. Cowan again after 12 years! I am in good hands again and hopefully to find answers with a Dr. Who gets my pain and doesn't dismiss me! He's amazing!
Thanks for the quick appointment without delay!
Thanks so much, Dr. Cowan. Good to see you again. Glad I was able to meet with you at the beginning of this cluster episode and consider new treatment approaches.
Dr. Cowan is a stellar physician. He provides excellent care in addition to being a personable and kind (and funny) human being.
Thank you for all you recommendations and help.
Excellent coverage of my concerns.
He was very knowledgeable, kind, and took time to answer my questions. He explained things well.
Great doctor and was very helpful!
I thought this appointment was better than the last and that he seemed more interested in me as a patient. I felt a bit more confident in my plan of care.
Dr. Cowan was very informative and kind. I appreciated his support.
Very personable, knowledgeable, and helpful.
Dr. Cowan and Dr. Pham were nothing less than superb. They were complete and thorough in obtaining a history, attentive throughout, very engaging and interested, and their recommendations were well reasoned, well explained, and perfect for my situation.
Excellent doctor! Asked a lot of good questions, great listener, thoughtful and practical medical advice, punctual appointment.
Excellent Care.
Very approachable
He's funny and informative.
Very diligent and thorough. Spent a lot of time understanding my concerns.
Dr. Cowan seems like a good doctor and like he cares. It’s very hard to tell because I don’t feel a connection is being made due to the video visits. Everything feels very abrupt.
I very much liked my visit with Dr. Cowan. He gave me hope after my visit when I thought I had none.
Dr Cowan and his team are very professional and go through all the questions with me in detail and provide an applicable healthcare plan for me.
good doc
Inspires a lot of confidence. Good residents with him.
Dr. Cowan seems a very good doctor
Outstanding, empathic and caring healthcare professional. He actively listens to his patients and is exceptionally knowledgeable about treatment options that would be most beneficial to them. In my last 20 years in dealing with a chronic migraine adversity he is simply the finest headache neurologist I have encountered. In my opinion he has an outstanding reputation that he most definitely fully deserves.
Thank you for helping this old Women get help with pain maybe some day I will be pain free.
Dr. Cowan is a great listener, he is extremely compassionate and he gave me answers and reassurance that nobody else was able to give. I felt incredibly blessed to be seen by Dr. Cowan and Dr. Pham.
Excelente Doctor.
He listens well and makes you feel comfortable . I would highly recommend him!
Nice man. Very helpful.
Dr. Cowan is amazing! He’s always so kind and so patient. He really listens to his patients needs and concerns and I’m always confident in his recommendations….he’s a gift to his patients! I’m always impressed by his experience, continued research and the way he guides his patients. A truly dedicated physician and mentor!
Dr. Cowan was wonderful. Human, personable, warm, funny and super helpful in his explanations regarding the issues I was bringing to him.
All-around excellent, felt privileged to get a visit with him.
Was very attentive to concerns and problems that have been experiencing. Also, seemed to understand that I’ve been very frustrated with the whole process. I appreciate the care whole team showed.
Dr. Cowab and Dr. Kendra were very warmth and friendly. It made the cideo visit like an in person visit. They are both cery intentional and caring.
Dr. Cowan provided excellent care, advice and support as always.
Dr. Cowan was amazing. This was my first visit and he made me feel extremely comfortable and he was very patient with me and my questions. He was very understanding and knowledgeable. He gave me hope in getting better. I personally feel he was personally selected to be my doctor. I feel that he gave me a treatment plan that can work for me and I am confident that I can now get better with his guidance and support. Thank you Dr. Cowan
Dr. Robert Cowan and Kendra were amazing during the call, they gave me an excellent plan for the future. I felt heard and understood for the first time in over 10+ years in regards to my issue.
Dr Cowan was friendly and made me feel very comfortable. Like talking to a friend. He was wonderful.
I really enjoy meeting with Dr. Cowan and checking in about my migraines. He is kind, smart, compassionate and has a good sense of humor. He has a lot of empathy since he has migraines as well, and I feel less alone. I feel well taken care of by him and Carol Barch.
Great ‘bed side’ manners, made me feel extremely comfortable and confident in the decisions being discussed
Excellent physician. Caring and very knowledgeable . I am quite satisfied.
Excellent consultation. Very thorough. He's an effective communicator.
I would have liked more clarity about specific action items for next steps in care, it was a little confusing.
Dr. Cowan was attentive and took into account my personal condition(s) and situation before drawing any conclusions about how to move forward. I felt I was treated as an individual by him and his fellow, Dr. Walker. He was personable and knowledgeable. Extremely willing to take the time needed to discuss my individual case.
He seemed very comfortably with the video format. He was professional and straightforward.
Dr. Cowan is a fabulous physician -- one I trust, respect and value for both his expertise and his 'bedside manner'. I always enjoy speaking with him.
He was great and very helpful.
He was very personable and addressed all of my concerns and questions. Very thorough and appreciate the questions by the other team members as well. I like the collaborative team assessment and examination. Thank you to all. Take care.
I was very pleased with how Dr. Cowan and his team approached my health concern. Dr. Cowan was able to give me piece of mind and a structured plan to further evaluate my current health. Thank you Dr. Cowan!
He heard what was going on, was responsive and caring.
Appreciate his demeanor, and articulated well the diagnosis. Also appreciated that explained ways to formally communicate in the future if issues persist.
Fantastic doctor!
Dr. Cowan was excellent and spent a good deal of time with us.
I travel 4 hours to see Dr. Cowan because he is such a great doc.
Provider was kind and professional.
Didn't try to push unwanted medication onto me as I've experienced with others providers. Loved the suggestion of non-medication options. I felt listened to.
Very good experience thank you for everything to the doctor and everybody help me - Thank you.
Dr. Cowan is a wonderful physician and feel blessed that I found him to address my migraines.
Provided excellent, detailed explanation, in words we could understand.
Excellent first visit.
Dr. Cowan - EXCELLENT! With TIME & KNOWLEDGE office very good & professional. Best medical experience I have EVER had -
Dr. Cowan is awesome! In between appointments when I have concerns or issues, we email. His personality is the best!
Dr. Cowan is the most reliable neurologist I've had since I began treating my migraines.
Thank you to Dr. Cowan! He followed up, by phone, re: infection (for migraine (if it helped, eased the pain) given 3 1/2 hr. drive home.
Dr. Cowan is the coolest doctor I've ever met. Great, upbeat personality, and sense of humor!
Dr. Cowan is very concerned about your well being and providing his professional assistance when needed. Excellent care provider.
Felt so at ease with Dr. Cowan - Seemed to really be an expert in giving Botox injections - A great experience!
He listened to me. I loved the fellow who talked with me first. She was very personable and knowledgeable.
Dr. Cohen took a cell phone call during my appointment and commented that he did not want to hear about my ringing in my right ear.
The experience with Dr. Cowan was very good. However the visit was cut short and there was little opportunity to ask questions and developed follow up actions.
It's consistently a pleasure being seen by Dr. Cowan. He is an excellent listener, on the cutting edge w/new research. Warm. Intelligent & kind.
Very good attention.
Dr. Cowan is great.
Dr. Cowan was very kind, understanding and knowledgeable.
I had a very good experience with the doctor and resident doctor.
Great I would be happy to see him again! Those were the least painful botox injections that I've had & my heart rate did not spike at all!
Dr. Cowan and Dr. Peretz provided useful advice.
Good attend excellent.
Dr. Cowan showed no concern for my condition or side effects from the medication he prescribed. He did not give me any follow up care instructions or information - he said maybe 5 words to me.
My experience with Dr. Cohen & his assistant was very good & I would recommend him to anyone with migraines.
Very positive experience with a neurologist who understands headaches! Wish I had access to such knowledge when first diagnosed with migraines approx. 32 years ago.
Excellent care, very kind and explained everything to me. I really appreciate your expertise!!
Kind, compassionate, attentive, thorough. Jacob Hall, the neurology resident was exceptional - caring, attentive, thorough, excellent bedside manner.
Awesome doctors!
Excellent drs.
Loved Dr. Cowan very nice & knowledgeable.
This is a great doctor and I am thankful to be seen by him.
So far, I'm very happy w/the treatment options I've been presented with -
Both Doc Cowan and his assistant were wonderful and very helpful.
I was required to bring disc with radiology studies. These were never reviewed with me. It was clear that Dr. Cowan did not read my entire medical record prior to my visit.
The best migraine doctor I have ever seen!
Dr. McCawley & Dr. Cowan were very thorough & wonderful. Felt like I was in good hands.
Always get more time w/the fellow than Dr. Cowan.
Awesome doctor - good listener. (Fellow was also wonderful.)
Dr. Cowan treated me with respect and had genuine concerns about my health. Dr. Aurora and Carol Ann Barch don't seem to care about helping me.
Dr. Cowan and his fellows were superb in all ways.
This was a consultation arranged by my treating neurologist (from Stanford) to assess my eligibility for a procedure performed elsewhere in Stanford - a limited, non-traditional role for Cowan.
Love Doctor Cowan!! Wished I'd come sooner.
When I see Dr. Cowan it's amazing! Yet NOT so when I see Barch, etc. Wish you were less busy so I could always see Dr. Cowan.
99% of visit was with assistant doctor (she had a fellowship). Dr. Cowan spent 5 minutes or less with me.
Super happy with my care from Dr. Cowan & Dr. Barch.
Dr. Cowan was great.
GREAT effort to include me in decision making, but I felt rushed to make decision without enough information.
This provider and I "clash" on some aspects of my care re: medications - opiates, so I've been transferring most of my care, aside from Botox to other providers. He is, however, very friendly & caring.
I was really nervous to get botox for my migraines. Dr. Cowan really eased that fear.
Dr. Cowan was very friendly, competent & informed - - helped me with decisions re" my care. Feel confident seeing him.
'Botox day' did not allow time so I am returning to talk.
Very respectful.

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