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Spring/Summer 2012

Pediatrics' Strong Shoulder

Date: May 14, 2012

Pediatrics' Strong Shoulder

If anyone in the Department of Pediatrics needed a strong shoulder for emotional support, they knew that Alejandro Rodriguez, chief of the Division of Child Psychiatry from 1968 to 1978, would provide it. 

Warm and intuitively wise, Rodriguez was the unofficial emotional consultant for all of pediatrics, while his skill and creativity as a clinician and researcher made him a pivotal figure in early studies of autism and developmental disorders. He was especially known for his light touch with the most vulnerable patients. 

“He could help his young patients tell us what they were worried about, sorry about and/or fearful of,” recalls Ray DePaulo Jr., director of the Department of Psychiatry. “He had a delightful twinkle in his eye and used his Venezuelan accent to great advantage when asking young patients to tell us about themselves.”

Rodriguez, a protégé of Hopkins’ pioneering child psychiatrists Leo Kanner and Leon Eisenberg, died on Jan. 20. He was 93.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Rodriguez earned his medical degree at its Central University in 1941, then came to Hopkins on a private scholarship in 1942 to train in pediatrics. His chief instructor was Edwards Park, then-pediatrician in chief and head of the Harriet Lane Clinic.

Rodriguez returned to Venezuela and practiced there for 13 years before deciding to pursue additional training in psychiatry. He ultimately returned to Hopkins, where he collaborated with Kanner, the founding father of child psychiatry, on several studies of autism, which Kanner had been the first to identify and name. Another mentor was Eisenberg, with whom he collaborated on a classic study of childhood school phobia.

When Eisenberg stepped down as head of child psychiatry in 1968, Rodriguez succeeded him. Although he officially retired a decade later, he remained active for many years thereafter, seeing patients until he was 85, according to his son, Ignacio Rodriguez (HS, pediatrics; HS, fellow neurology, 1976-80).  Neil A. Grauer