Dr. Adib Federico Rodriguez-Solares admits that he sometimes wonders how he was able to succeed in medical school in his native Guatemala.
The interim chair of the pediatrics department at the UNLV School of Medicine thinks about how he managed to escape becoming collateral damage in his country’s civil war, how he managed to focus on his studies during the 1970s and 1980s, when bullets and bombs in Guatemala City were part of everyday life.
“I ask myself how did I manage and then I realize you just had to keep doing your routines, had to keep doing what you had to do and hopefully not get caught up in it,” he said. “I wasn’t approached by active members on either side. I guess they observe you to see how you act, what you express. I guess I didn’t express anything that caused me trouble.”
Today, Rodriguez-Solares, who first came to Las Vegas as part of the UNR School of Medicine and then transitioned to the UNLV School of Medicine in 2017, said he enjoys providing care to those children who are too often underserved.
“We can’t give up on kids because their families don’t have money,” he said.
The doctor said he appreciates being part of a team that consists of more than 20 faculty, and about 39 residents, and two chief residents handling 27,000 yearly clinic visits — 16,000 visits to the general pediatric clinic and another 11,000 visits to specialists. There are specialists in pulmonology, neurology, behavioral development, genetics, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, and adolescent medicine. A specialist in endocrinology is expected to join the team soon. UNLV Medicine has the most pediatric subspecialties in one place in Nevada.
You generally can find Rodriguez-Solares working with patients and teaching medical students and residents at UMC Children’s Hospital. He said he enjoys the hospitalist-teaching role.
“I just love sharing what I know. It comes natural to me. I let my students know that a good pediatrician pays attention to details,” he said, adding that since the youngest patients often can’t provide details, it is essential for the doctors to be very observant.
His knack for getting his point across, coupled with his fluency in both English and Spanish, has not gone unnoticed by the media. Spanish-speaking TV media in particular now call on him to explain the latest medical advances and problems to their audiences.
“It’s important that people understand what’s going on in medicine,” said the doctor, who is a strong proponent of vaccinations for children. “I’m not sure most people understand what life would be like for their children without vaccinations.”
Guatemala to the U.S.
Rodriguez-Solares still remembers clearly his days in his home country.
His childhood was idyllic. “I grew up on a farm. My father was a timekeeper on a banana plantation, clocking the workers in and out. He later became manager. l was able to ride horses. It was great.”
Things changed, however, after he left for higher education in Guatemala City. It was only after he finished medical school that he learned that some of his classmates were actively involved with guerilla groups. “They handled the situation so well, doing what they did outside of school and never revealing it. Some would get killed later, their families massacred.”
After finishing medical school and a residency in Guatemala, Rodriguez-Solares decided he wanted more in-depth training and so completed both a pediatric residency and a fellowship in infectious diseases through the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Following his training in Houston, he returned to Guatemala for 26 years. There he continued to do the kind of research he had begun in Texas. “We developed the only pediatric infectious disease program in Central America.”
His research work has appeared in several peer-reviewed publications, including the American Journal of Cardiology, the Journal of Pediatrics, the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
He said he hopes Americans realize the opportunities they have and take advantage of them.
“This is still the only country in the world where if you do honest, transparent hard work, you’re able to progress.”