Hugh Brent Solvason, Ph.D., M.D.

Dr. Solvason is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University since 2001. In addition to his medical training and specialist training in Psychiatry, he has a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has diverse and global experience with the lives and well-being of people at risk, and finding the path to a life that is happy and meaningful.

Dr. Solvason has a broad background in areas spanning the treatment of severe depression and bipolar disorder using novel drugs and other leading edge technologies that directly change brain function to treat these illnesses. During his tenure at Stanford he has been involved in or run numerous scientific studies of the underlying neurobiology as well as treatment of major depression and bipolar disorder, and published extensively on these topics.

In addition to this academic pursuits and the clinical treatment of patients with severe mood disorders at Stanford, he has had extensive experience with orphaned and vulnerable children world-wide in Indonesia, China and more intensively in southern Africa. He is currently partnered with Bridging the Gap, a non-governmental organization in Zimbabwe. Together with Nyasha Manyau, the Founder and Director of Bridging the Gap, they have implemented a long-term interventional program for vulnerable adolescent and young women in townships near the capital Harare. Early adversity and loss have a destructive impact on the development of these young women. Highlighting the destructive power early events had shaping the development of these young women, 10% have committed suicide despite the intensive material and personal support provided by the program.

Over the last few years, he has been collaborating with Lynn Houle and Cheryl Thompson, layering to their clinical model and treatments for children an understanding and integration of psychiatric symptoms, syndromes and diagnoses, as well as developing an understanding of the relationship of their treatment model to medication based interventions. Together we have developed an approach that reflects a broad understanding of the neurobiology of behavior in children who are both neuro-typical and atypical, who present with a number of challenges and needs. This has helped understand the deep biologic underpinings of ‘breaking the child code’, the use of non-verbal and non-threatening strategies to engage and develop a mentor relationship to shape behavior into something that prepares children for the arc of development to adulthood and the day to day challenges encountered in the school and living with the family.

The integration of the specialist knowledge and long clinical experience working with children struggling with the most challenging behaviors, provides a unique window on culturally embedded parenting approaches that block development in children who have difficulty using parental guidance that heavily relies on cognitive and language based skills.

He is also the father of a now adult son with Asperger’s Syndrome. For the last 28 years he has experienced the day to day challenges of parenting a child that has special needs, that required a different and not intuitive approach to parenting, and a for whom, he needed to find a very different approach to loving and communication. This experience has profoundly influenced Dr. Solvason’s view of parenting and provided him with very personal experience of the many failures and small successes of trying one’s best.