Local Neurologist Reflects On 30-Year Career, Excited For Future Opportunities
M. Walid Kamsheh, MD, has been practicing medicine as a neurologist on Maryland's Eastern Shore for over 30 years, and this year, is celebrating 10 years with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). He has no plans to retire any time soon, thanks to a growing practice specializing in the study and treatment of brain, spinal cord and nerve disorders; his leadership of the area's Primary Stroke Center; exciting advancements in treatment options; and his desire to keep giving back to the Eastern Shore communities that have supported and given him so much.
As Medical Director of both the Primary Stroke Center at the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton and UM Shore Medical Group-Neurology and Sleep Medicine, Dr. Kamsheh primarily serves patients from Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's and Talbot counties. However, as one of few neurologists in the Delmarva region, he also sees patients from the western shore and the lower Eastern Shore.
Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Dr. Kamsheh grew up in a family of physicians and dentists, and knew from an early age that he wanted to become a doctor.
He was always fascinated by how the brain works, but when he was in his early 20s, he lost his father to a stroke, and his desire to become a neurologist became personal.
"Where I grew up, there were very few neurologists," he said. "Neurology intrigued me -- how the brain works, the anatomy of the brain. I knew from a young age that I was going to be a neurologist."
Dr. Kamsheh arrived in the United States in 1980 and in California, met and married his wife, Debra, who was studying nursing. They later had two daughters while Dr. Kamsheh studied for certification in the United States. He then entered a residency program at the Medical College of Virginia and moved east with his young family. Following his residency, he established a private practice on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the early 1990s.
"As we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for the first time, we knew it was home," Dr. Kamsheh said. "The people of the Eastern Shore welcomed us with open arms and became our family in a place that was far away from where we started and from everyone we knew."
In 2011, he joined the UMMS helped to grow the practice, recruiting physicians and advanced practice providers, and providing collaboration and advanced care. Establishing and being able to grow his practice over the past 30 years is one of his greatest accomplishments, he said.
Today, UM SMG – Neurology and Sleep Medicine focuses on the treatment of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, brain and spinal cord tumors, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and stroke. Dr. Kamsheh also specializes in sleep disorders, including insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, sleepwalking and snoring. His colleagues in the practice include nurse practitioners Rahel Alemu, Trisha Lemay and Tatyana Valentin, and physician assistant Fallon Bauer, and most the newest team member, Rena Sukhdeo Singh, MD, who joined August 1, 2021. These providers work with neurosurgeons, pain management specialists, pulmonologists, otolaryngologists, cardiologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, other neurologists and dentists to provide the highest level of care, close to home.
"We are helping people and putting a smile on their faces," Dr. Kamsheh said. "Growing this practice is my mission, because then we can help more people. The goal is to grow this practice into a multispecialty group of providers."
One specialty the practice provides is the Headache Clinic, where more than 70 patients a month receive Botox injections for chronic migraine pain. In collaboration with Peyman Otmishi, MD, of UM Shore Medical Group – Pulmonology, Dr. Kamsheh also manages three accredited sleep centers that offer diagnosis and treatment for more than 80 types of sleep disorders.
In 2017, Dr. Kamsheh became medical director of UM Shore Medical Center at Easton's Primary Stroke Center. The Primary Stroke Center has received multiple awards from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association’s Get with the Guidelines Stroke Recognition program, which recognizes hospitals for providing the most effective stroke treatment according to nationally acknowledged, researched-based guidelines.
“This is a great achievement for any medical institution, but it shows that we are highly competitive among the larger, more well-known stroke care providers, not only in Maryland but throughout the United States. UM Shore Regional Health is offering something truly great, the gold standard in stroke care, by providing this state-of-the-art Primary Stroke Center," he said. "These efforts take the support of many -- it starts with the EMTs throughout our five-county region, our emergency care doctors and nurses, and the on-call stroke team. This teamwork helps us save many lives, every year."
Dr. Kamsheh is especially enthusiastic about medical advancements in stroke care; namely, Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) treatment. tPA is a clot-dissolving medicine that helps to restore blood flow to the brain by removing blockages.
"This medicine works and has revolutionized stroke care," he said. "I am so thrilled to be alive to see and provide this treatment."
Dr. Kamsheh adds that being able to offer additional treatments and surgical interventions for stroke, including thrombectomy, and to collaborate with other specialists in the University of Maryland Medical System when needed, are all advantages of being part of UMMS – advantages that support state-of-the-art patient care.
This past March, UM Shore Regional Health began a new program, offering RapidAI in its four emergency departments in Chestertown, Dorchester, Easton and Queenstown. RapidAI software takes advanced pictures of the brain, which are then sent to the Stroke Center care team.
"From these photos, we can identify a diagnosis and a treatment even faster," Dr. Kamsheh said. "This helps us in triage by accelerating the decision-making process -- we know sooner what treatment will work the best and if we need to arrange for patient transfer to Baltimore."
This close relationship with UM SRH emergency departments translates to more coordinated care for other patient needs, as well. For example, a patient is seen in a UM SRH Emergency Department for a seizure is guaranteed a follow-up appointment with a UM SMG-Neurology and Sleep Medicine provider within 24 hours of his or her emergency care visit or release from observation.
Even though time off from his work is scarce, Dr. Kamsheh said he wouldn't change a thing, except to be able to offer more to the community he loves. Since moving to the Eastern Shore, Dr. Kamsheh and his wife have raised their five children in a community he said welcomed he and his family with open arms.
"Several of our children and their spouses have chosen careers in health care and one of my nieces is practicing neurology in the Midwest," Dr. Kamsheh said. "I feel very fortunate that I am able to contribute to a place that has given me so much, and 30 years later, to still call the Eastern Shore home. I wake up every day excited to help this community."
UM SMG-Neurology and Sleep Medicine offers appointments in-person and via telemedicine. For more information or to schedule an appointment, speak to your primary care physician, call 410-770-5250 or visit umshoreregional.org.