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Primary Care/ Family Medicine/ Community Medicine

Alumni Profiles

The following profiles highlight some of our extraordinary alumni in primary care. Read about their journey through medical school, outstanding career and personal achievements, and advice to future primary care physicians.

Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky, MD–Family Medicine
John Rodarte, MD–Pediatrics
Ron Ben-Ari, MD–Internal Medicine

Jose Yakushi, MD
Family Medicine

Biography
I am a third‐generation Japanese, born in Lima, Peru. I came to Los Angeles at the age of 14. A year after my family came to this country, my father suffered a heart attack. Being new to this country, knowing little English, and being uninsured, we felt helpless. I remember spending countless hours in the emergency room not knowing my father’s fate. Fortunately, we were blessed to receive the best medical care, and at that time I made a commitment to help other families who, like mine, came to this country in search of a better life. While in college I volunteered as a translator in the emergency room. In medical school I volunteered my time helping uninsured patients at the Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero in Los Angeles. Finally, I completed my residency at White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles, where I learned more about the major health problems facing the underserved population in Los Angeles and, more importantly, how to address the needs of this diverse population.

About my practice
As a family doctor, I enjoy treating a diverse population in my practice. My patient population ranges from teenagers, who deal with problems like teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, to patients with chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Because I am fluent in Spanish, I can also devote my time to helping immigrant families through education and the prevention of diseases that afflict our community.

How I thrive
I try to keep balance in my life by staying active, which can be challenging when you have two small children at home. I enjoy swimming at the YMCA in the mornings before coming to the office. I keep a mountain bike in my office, and when I have time I ride to the top of the Whittier Mountains during lunch. However, what I enjoy the most is spending time with my two beautiful daughters, who brighten my day no matter how tired I may be.

Maricela Amparo Garcia Schiffman, M.D.

Education:
Keck School of Medicine of USC, May 2010
University of Southern California, May 2005
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biological Sciences
Minor Degree in Cinema‐Television Critical Studies
Medical Career:
Residency – In Progress
Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center, Family Medicine

Why/How did you chose your medical specialty area?
I entered medical school knowing I wanted to be a primary care physician, but only interested in serving kids – I had worked as a camp counselor during my undergraduate years, and spent some
time abroad teaching third‐grade ecology so I was convinced that children were to be my future! After year 1 ICM, having had only exposure speaking with the older geriatric population at LAC/USC, I discovered that these were people I cared greatly for as well. A positive experience with other professional healthcare providers serving my grandmother who was on hospice at the time also persuaded me to open up my options. I heard about the CAFP’s summer preceptorship through FMIG, and decided to see what family medicine was all about.

After my summer with the Family Care Specialists in Highland Park (outpatient services for White Memorial Hospital,) I was officially in love with the field of family. I made ties with mentors in the field during my second year, and during my third year had my passion reinvigorated with a clerkship at Kaiser. With Family I had everything I loved about the other specialties – the biopsychosocial approach of psychiatry, the prenatal care of Ob/Gyn, the hands‐on approach of surgery. But more than that, above all other specialties I felt that the field exhibited a philosophy which made me chose medicine in the first place – that treating disease can not be separated from treating a person who is suffering. And people are what sustain me.

What has been your own career journey’s most rewarding experience and challenge?
My most difficult challenge on the road to medicine has always been sacrificing time otherwise spent with family and loved ones outside of medical school. Challenges with choosing family medicine include dispelling myths and criticism from physicians who believe that the profession is dispensable or limited in scope (nothing can be further from the truth!)
The most rewarding experience has always been the patient encounter. Especially those that end with a mutual “¡Que siga adelante!” (May you continue onward!)

What career advice or suggestions to current students would you give?
Seek opportunity to nurture your interests even if it doesn’t look like they exist! By far the best experience I had in my 4th year was completing a six‐week elective rotation with the medical director of both a palliative care hospital team and Trinity Care Hospice in the San Fernando Valley. Because our school had no official hospice and palliative care rotation I had to do some investigating, but thanks to diligence I now plan on following my residency with a fellowship in the field.

If you even THINK you may be interested in family medicine I would also recommend attending the Family Medicine Residents and Students National Conference held each summer (funding available through both CAFP and AAFP). There you’ll discover that family medicine physicians are generally really great people in life and in the practice – you have to be to be a successful clinician who collaborates with other specialists and professions!

Todd Andrew Forman, M.D., M.M.Ed., F.A.A.F.P.

Education:
1992 Undergrad: Harvard, cum laude, major psychology
1997 Med school: UCLA
2000 Family Medicine Residency: Santa Monica/UCLA
2002 Masters in Medical Education: USC

Medical Career:
2000‐2005 Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Keck USC SOM, Dept. of Family Medicine
2005‐present Partner, Forman Family Medicine

Other Profession:
2010‐present Horn and Keys for Sublime with Rome

My mom is a family physician and brother an orthopedic surgeon. I grew up with an instinctual gravitation toward medicine. The professionalism and achievement inspired me. As I observed and listened to more physicians and mentors I chose the specialty that most embraces an humanistic approach to health care. I enjoyed psychology in college and knew I would enjoy talking with patients and building long‐term relationships; and in the process, help inspire people to effect positive change in their lives. I also knew that I wanted to teach and felt that family medicine would be an ideal specialty to teach medical students.

Starting up my own private practice with my mother was harrowing and ultimately rewarding. I can see why most doctors do not attempt such an endeavor. Throwing down hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new practice with no patients and no guarantees is very scary. I had a great mentor in my brother, Scott, as he has been out in practice for more than a decade longer. His confidence and guidance was immeasurable.

The small business environment in California stinks – local and state taxes and surcharges for every detail of your practice can choke it off quick. However, if you watch the bottom line and your overhead can stay under or near 50% of your gross income, you’ll be fine. My mom and I employ one biller, one front office staff, two medical assistants and one “rover.” The only way to do family medicine well is to have adequate and well‐trained staff.

I’ve had great mentors over the years: Dr. Allan Abbott, Dr. Peter Lee, Dr. Brian Prestwich, Dr. Jimmy Hara, Dr. Erin Quinn, Dr. Pam Schaff, Dr. Terry Whoerle, Dr. Jerry Gates, Dr. Denise Sur, and Dr. Skip Felmar among others… and of course, my mom, brother, and wife (dermatology).

Teaching at USC was a seminal experience for me. I gained the knowledge and experience to become a confident and competent physician. The greatest strength of Keck USC is its wealth of faculty and mentors that are available and kind. I always tell students to find someone they would like to emulate and ask them to be your mentor. That’s what I did and I can’t tell you how much they helped me.

I love family medicine and it’s a great career. I work 9‐5 Monday through Thursday and I assist my brother in the OR on Friday mornings. I have 2 ½ days off for the weekend. I see about 14 patients per day. Our practice takes PPO and Medicare and we see a wide variety of medical problems, both acute and chronic. My mom and I used to deliver babies at USC, but no longer. We do take care of some children, but mostly adults. You can get a better sense for our practice and our philosophy by checking out our website at formanfamilymedicine.com.

Finally, my dad always said, “Be a doctor first, and then you can do whatever you want.” Though initially repulsed by his incessant wishes and expectations place upon me, I figured out that I really did love medicine and wisely chose it as a career path. (He would’ve wanted me to be a surgeon. Oh well, you can’t please your father all the time.) Family medicine has given me a wonderful life and a great career
– five amazing years teaching at USC and five amazing years in private practice in Newport Beach. Medical school, residency, teaching and practice have made me a better person – more feeling, more mature, more compassionate, more knowledgeable, more communicative and more confident. I suppose this happens to everyone in their respective careers as they mature. However, I do feel physicians and those training to be physicians have unique opportunities to better themselves while bettering the world around them. We are very fortunate.

Now, my father’s advice has come full circle and I’m taking advantage of another amazing opportunity. I’m writing this from my tour bus. I play sax and keys for Sublime with Rome. Quite a jump, I know, but I’d have to spend a page or two explaining the connection. I was the original sax player on the albums for sublime and they’re back out with a new lead singer (Rome). My mom and I found a new partner to cover my practice while on the road and I brought a mini‐clinic with me to treat everyone here. Most people who work in the music business lack health insurance and really appreciate the care I give. The fans don’t mind the music therapy either! Radical. I have a re‐born music career and a thriving family practice to go back to. It doesn’t get any better than this!