Born and raised in Paraguay, Carlos Solano-Lopez (Residency ‘90) has devoted his life to the psychiatric care of United States military veterans. This year, he established a professorship in the Department of Psychiatry to serve as a memorial to his mother and to benefit children and adolescents with a very specific problem.
“When I was growing up, I had a problem speaking; I stuttered. There was no treatment that my parents were aware of and I struggled with this issue for many years,” says Solano-Lopez, from his home near Schoolcraft, Michigan.
The Rosa Casco Solano-Lopez Professorship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry will enable the department to recruit a world-renowned researcher who specializes in the psychiatric issues that sometimes are a result of speech impairment.
After earning his medical degree in 1984 from the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion, then completing a yearlong internship there, Solano-Lopez came to Ann Arbor to interview for a residency in the Department of Psychiatry. Impressed by the faculty he met, he was happy when he matched to the U-M. He completed his residency in 1990 and decided to make Michigan his home.
Sponsored by the Veterans Administration, his first job was at the Battle Creek VA Hospital; he’s been there ever since.
“I like my coworkers. I like the patients I work with. I’m in an inpatient unit: people with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar conditions, posttraumatic stress disorders, dementia, cognitive disorders,” he says. “We’re seeing a lot of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries. It’s a stressful job, but worth doing.”
Away from the hospital, Solano-Lopez uses his downtime to decompress and enjoy the beauty of rural southwest Michigan. “I have some acreage and I love watching the wildlife,” he says.
Though his own speech impairment essentially resolved itself when he reached adulthood — and rarely bothers him today — Solano-Lopez is acutely aware of the impact stuttering and other communication disorders can have on the lives of children and adolescents.
“If a person has speech impairment, it goes to the heart of being able to relate to other people,” he says. “There is a speech pathology service (at the U-M) but I wanted to do something more in-depth to focus on the children who have the most severe forms of speech impairment and to treat the psychiatric sequelae. I want to see what better treatment modalities can be developed. I went through the Michigan psychiatric service and I know how good they are. I felt this would be the place to set this up.”
Sheila Marcus, M.D., section director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, says, “From my training days, I fondly remember Dr. Lopez as a compassionate clinician who listened carefully to patients before making any decisions. His decision to give back to children who struggle mightily with language disorders is extraordinarily generous, but does not surprise me, since I know him to be a most kind and caring individual.”
The professorship honors Solano-Lopez’ mother, who worked as a secretary in Paraguay before dedicating herself to raising her three children. Rosa Casco Solano-Lopez died earlier this year. “I have very good memories of my mother and I thought it would be fitting to name the professorship in her memory,” says Solano-Lopez. “I feel she would have appreciated it very much.”
But at the heart of this extraordinary gift is a simple desire to help others. “I want to do something for the next generation, in particular for people who may be struggling with the issue I had years ago,” he says. “I want to make things better for them.”