Dr. Gaspar de Alba joined the University of Nevada School of Medicine in
2012. He attended medical school at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara
in Mexico and received his medical degree from New York Medical College.
He practiced general pediatrics for two years before continuing his training
at the University of North Carolina in the Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics
fellowship program. He was also an assistant professor and division chief
of the Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Division at the Paul L. Foster
School of Medicine in El Paso, Texas. On March 1, the father of seven
will join the UNLV School of Medicine as associate dean of diversity and
Here are the highlights of his recent interview with Genevie Durano.
I picked this specialty because these kids are like a puzzle for me. The
different things that can go on—the behavioral problems and the
family dynamics and diagnoses such as autism or ADHD—it’s
just like putting pieces of a puzzle together. I had a great mentor who
got me interested in developmental pediatrics during residency, and his
best advice for me was to pay attention to the family. You know you’re
seeing the kid and the kid is your patient, but listen to the family.
Understand what’s going on in the family, or else you’re not
going to get all the information you need to help the child.
With autism, we are getting better at diagnosing. At the same time, there
is more of it, and there are many theories for why this is happening.
With ADHD, it’s more a reflection of a change in our environment
and how kids are raised, everything from how families work to the way
media affect their lives. That plays a bigger role in ADHD than it does
With ADHD, the most important thing is figuring out where the symptoms
are coming from. Because you can get those symptoms from a whole lot of
things—not sleeping enough, not eating right, being neglected, being
abused, having a learning disability, having anxiety or depression. So
once you figure out what’s behind it, that drives the type of treatment.
Schools are not structured to accommodate ADHD kids. One of the things
we recommend is chunked learning, where you have a chunk of time to focus
and a chunk of time where you can run around and be active. Our schools
are not set up that way; it’s just a long day. Typical schools try
to put everybody into one kind of learning mold, so kids who don’t
learn that way have a hard time reaching their potential. When you do
try to shove them into this lump they don’t fit into, well, guess
what happens? You get behaviors, and then we try to medicate the behaviors.
That might not be the problem. And we have to figure out what’s
going on. Today, one in eight kids are diagnosed with ADHD; some places
even more like one in six. So we have to figure out how we’re going
to modify our learning environment so each child can meet their potential.
The most encouraging thing about treatment is watching kids improve, and
watching how that improves their relationship with their family. That
by itself makes the kids’ environment so much more supportive and
they are so much happier, and it gets them on the right foot to be successful