Dr. Carmen I. Rivera-Cuesta, 75, Spring Grove psychiatrist

October 20, 2005|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Carmen I. Rivera-Cuesta, a retired psychiatrist who had worked at Spring Grove State Hospital, died of complications from Parkinson's disease Oct. 13 at Manor Care in Towson. The Pikesville resident was 75.

Carmen I. Rivera was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, and earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1948 from the University of Puerto Rico, graduating magna cum laude.

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta became a registered medical technologist after earning a degree from the Registry of Medical Technologists in 1950. She then entered medical school and earned her degree in 1955 from the University of Puerto Rico's School of Tropical Medicine.

In 1955, she moved to Chicago, where she completed a rotating internship and a fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at Michael Reese Hospital in 1958.

While at Michael Reese Hospital, she met Dr. Carlos Cuesta, a psychiatrist, whom she married in 1958. He died in 1983.

From 1966 to 1969, she completed residency training in psychiatry at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute. She later practiced at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago and at a clinic in Proviso Township, Ill.

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta returned to Puerto Rico in 1975. She was a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Juan until she moved to Baltimore in 1982. She joined the staff of Spring Grove State Hospital in 1985.

"We were all saddened by her death," said Dr. David S. Helsel, superintendent at Spring Grove. "Her specialty was working with the most seriously and persistently mentally ill patients in the state who had a variety of diagnoses. These were long-term patients who did not rapidly respond to treatment."

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta worked with patients who suffered from schizophrenia or major depression, or were bipolar and delusional.

"These were the 5 percent of the patients who were long-term and could not leave the hospital as quickly after treatment," Dr. Helsel said. "Her patient load was about 35 patients. She had patience, was extraordinarily kind, and they loved her.

"She had great success rates with her patients because they trusted her, took their medicine and attended group treatments. They did this because they wanted to please Dr. Rivera-Cuesta," he said.

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta fought hard for her patients, Dr. Helsel said.

"She was an advocate for them and was fairly outspoken and assertive, but always in a dignified manner," he said.

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta enjoyed entertaining at an annual Christmas party that she held in her unit at Spring Grove.

"She'd have a big party which was well-attended by both patients and staff," Dr. Helsel said. "She cooked the food herself and brought it to the unit so everyone could enjoy it together."

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta, who retired in 1997, also had done contract work for the federal disability determination unit at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn.

She enjoyed preparing Puerto Rican foods for family and friends, singing and traveling.

Dr. Rivera-Cuesta attended Masses at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Pikesville.

Services were held Saturday.

Surviving are a daughter, Pilar Cuesta of Pikesville; and a sister, Anna Rosa Rivera of Puerto Rico.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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