Kathryn Hawk, MD, MHS is an emergency room physician with a specialty in addiction, overdose prevention and ED linkage to care. She arrived at Yale Medicine in 2010 as a resident and stayed on as a full-time faculty member, drawn by Yale’s emergency department’s focus on public health and addiction.
During her first year of medical school as the opioid crisis was significantly worsening, Dr. Hawk volunteered at Prevention Point Philadelphia’s Streetside Clinic, a free mobile health clinic in that traveled in tandem with the needle exchange van. The patients she saw there shaped her clinical and research interests. “The fact that during my training, I saw what was happening in our community, in our ED, and in the news, it became very clear to me what I should focus my efforts on,” she says.
Today, Dr. Hawk continues her interest in addiction medicine by conducting clinical research on opioid use disorders and overdose prevention. She looks at ways to implement overdose prevention interventions and emergency department-initiated buprenorphine both at Yale and in hospitals around the country. “I love interacting with patients on an individual one-on-one level but feel even more fortunate that I get to help people at a broader public health level. The combination is incredibly rewarding,” she says.
As an emergency room physician, Dr. Hawk sees a variety of patients, conditions and procedures every day. “Over a couple of minutes, you could go from talking about the goals of care with a family of an elderly patient, to discussing available treatments for substance use disorders, to sitting down with an adolescent and talking to them about safe sex,” she says. As a result, a big part of her job is understanding why a patient is in the emergency room department to begin with, and how she can help. To do this, Dr. Hawk asks lots of questions: “Sometimes I flat out ask them, sometimes I do some reflective listening and repeat what they’ve said and ask them how I can help,” she says. Dr. Hawk believes that the emergency room is often the first step to getting a patient connected to long-term resources, and these deeper conversations allow her to understand the root cause of why a patient came to the ED on that particular day and what they need moving forward.