As the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities across the United States, an alarming lack of physicians specializing in addiction leaves those suffering without sufficient treatment or empathy.
Among the rare exceptions is Kevin Walsh, M.D., a MAVEN Project volunteer who recently retired with three decades of experience in primary care and over 20 years of practice in addiction medicine. A significant portion of his work involved caring for complex patients with chronic pain and opioid dependency. He also helped develop his facility’s opioid safety program.
This wealth of experience is a boon for MAVEN Project’s partner clinics, which treat patients at disproportionately higher risk of opioid abuse.
“There’s a dire shortage of addiction specialists in this country,” Dr. Walsh added. “I love answering the consult requests from clinic providers in MAVEN Project’s network. I feel called to help my colleagues since it’s so hard to access providers in this specialty.”
Though he had a post-retirement plan, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic motivated him to rethink his plans.
“I knew I had both the time and the energy to continue contributing to the medical field,” he said. “There are so few people doing what I do, so I wanted to expand my impact.”
Consulting through MAVEN Project isn’t Dr. Walsh’s only calling. A certified mindfulness teacher, he promotes positive health practices through coaching at LK Mindfulness, where his wife, Laura, a nurse practitioner, also teaches. His techniques benefit patients with a wide range of issues, including behavioral health challenges.
Dr. Walsh practiced for 30 years at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Sacramento, where he served as chief of physician health and wellness as well as lead physician in its communication skills training program.
His expertise has been duly recognized; at Kaiser Northern California, Dr. Walsh was awarded the Morris Cullen Award for Teaching Excellence in Continuing Medical Education for his wide array of courses on communication, addiction medicine, pain management, and physician wellness.
Beyond sharing his extensive knowledge, Dr. Walsh also serves as a MAVEN Project mentor for clinic providers. He assists mentees with everything from navigating individual cases to fostering better clinic environments for addiction medicine. He added that he loves being a supportive ear when providers are facing daunting challenges.
“I love coaching both providers and patients,” he shared. “I’ve done that for much of my career and it’s incredible to be a part of MAVEN Project and continue that into retirement. Not many providers have the privilege of training like mine—it’s so satisfying to share that.”