University of Southern California

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.


Erin Higginbotham, MD Family Medicine

LCCME was such an incredible experience and so important to my journey as a physician. I knew I was interested in primary care, but the opportunity to work with a community physician and experience the joys and challenges of family medicine was a great privilege. I was able to see a side of medicine that the standard curriculum did not afford me and meet mentors with shared values like myself. Furthermore, LCCME was an opportunity to meet other likeminded students. My ICM group included some of the most inspiring and supportive people I’ve ever met. I found it vital to be around people who recognized the importance of primary care, patient-centered and community-based medicine, and who wanted to strive to understand and address the social determinants of health along with the medical causes. My ICM group mates and I formed a bond that is still strong today and I am proud to call them my colleagues and friends. 

This year I will graduate residency and can say I’m a proud Family Medicine physician who will be caring for infants, adolescents, and adults. I am excited to be working at H Claude Hudson Comprehensive Health Center starting this Fall and continue to serve the people of Los Angeles County. 


Edward Chau, MD Internal Medicine

The LCCME/PCP program exposed me to community healthcare settings early on in medical school. Through that exposure, I learned about the effectiveness of the Medical Home through working with an enthusiastic interdisciplinary team. More importantly though, I was able to directly see and appreciate how home visits and an understanding of each patient’s unique home environment better contextualizes treatment plans.

The program cemented the fact that medical care is not limited to just settings like clinics and hospitals, which is where most physicians believe care is provided because of our training. Lost in that perspective is that the actual care of one’s health takes place in everyday life when patients are not in physically in clinics and hospitals. As providers, we need be more mindful in considering how our treatments will be applied within patient’s lives.

I am a third year Internal Medicine resident who will be applying to Cardiology fellowship. 


Janice Rivelle, MD Internal Medicine

I had a great experience in the primary care program. I was able to participate in direct patient care early on and got a head start with my clinical skills. I worked with passionate, caring mentors within primary care, and I also forged lifelong friendships with my fellow medical students in PCP. 

The primary care program offered me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. I was able to participate in different practice environments (for example, a federally qualified health center in my first year, versus a Kaiser managed-care model in my second year). This allowed me to get a taste of the many different ways primary care is practiced. The program had a huge impact on me and helped shape my ultimate career goals. 

I am currently a 3rd year Internal Medicine resident at USC. I enjoy my continuity care clinic. It’s very rewarding to get to know my patients better and to practice preventative care. I feel satisfied when I can form a strong bond with one of my patients and help them achieve their health goals. 


Pooja Jaeel, MD Med-Peds

I was a part of the PCP from 2013 to 2017. I wanted to join this group because of an interest in primary care and for the opportunity to meet and work with like-minded people. Throughout my four years of medical school, I really valued having primary care career events, mixers, and the opportunity to conduct primary care centered research.

Being a part of PCP (LCCME) was an important part of my medical school experience. The opportunities for peer and faculty mentorship were so valuable to me! As the first person in my family to pursue medicine, I depended on the advice and guidance of my mentors. Through LCCME, I was connected to both faculty and upperclassmen who were passionate about the same things as me and were eager to answer questions about everything from test prep to career advice. During my time in the LCCME, I had the opportunity to complete a quality improvement project that brought diabetic group education classes to the patients at my continuity clinic. Through this primary care-based experience, I learned how to create systemic change that have since benefited my career goals. In residency, I have created similar quality improvement projects for my primary care patients.

I am currently finishing my third year of Med-Peds residency in UCSD. I really enjoy working with my adult and pediatric patient panels, especially at my continuity clinic site. There, I am working on creating and implementing a transitions of care curriculum to help our low resource, poor health literate pediatric patients gain the knowledge and skills to become empowered, independent patients in an adult primary care practice. I am also involved in initiatives to increase diversity in medicine and encourage state and national level advocacy on behalf of patients and clinicians. I love that I get to work on so many interesting things!


Warren Yamashita, MD Family Medicine

Warren Yamashita recalls his years in Keck’s primary care program as foundational to his training and development as a person and physician. He is especially grateful for his mentors Dr Jo Marie Reilly and Dr Jon Wada who taught both the science and art of medicine. He particularly is thankful for his primary care program cohort of medical students who have become lifelong friends. Keck offers a unique contrast few schools can offer: excellent didactic training with all the resources of Keck’s cardinal tower paired with clinical training in under resourced clinics and LA county hospital. Warren followed his vision of service to a rural underserved town called Hilo. He found excellent clinical training at Hilo’s, Hawaii Island Family Medicine Residency Program: a little known program in an incredibly unique training location and with a very special patient population. Unexpectedly, he was compelled into Addiction Medicine when he realized the local and national drug abuse epidemic was driving a second Child Welfare Crisis in America. Next year he will be starting his Addiction Medicine Fellowship at Stanford University with particular clinical interests in treating and preventing substance use disorders in children and adolescents and research interests in transmagnetic stimulation as a novel treatment for addiction. He plans to practice both Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine in his future practice. He loves joining patients wherever they are in their medical or addiction stories as they pursue a bright vision of physical, psychological, social and spiritual wholeness. He realizes he is only a side character in their story and is so grateful for the immense joy he receives in partnering with them towards their paths of healing.



Janice Loh, MD Pediatrics

When I came to medical school, I had a budding interest in primary care and serving those less fortunate. The PCP (formerly LCCME) program at Keck helped solidify my interest through unique experiences working at an FQHC in South Los Angeles and learning more about interdisciplinary care. My love for working with families and children led me to pediatrics, and I completed residency at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School. I will be staying at Dell Children’s as a pediatric hospitalist for one year. Following that, I am considering working in a community health center, providing quality medical care to the underserved.


Jose Yakushi, MD
Family Medicine

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, MD

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, MD, M.M.Ed., F.A.A.F.P.

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

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!



Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky, MD, Family Medicine


I am a family doctor practicing in urban area with mostly immigrant populations since 1991. I graduated from USC School of Medicine in 1986 and trained in Family Medicine at Kaiser Sunset, and in Adolescent Medicine at CHLA.  I train medical students primarily from UCLA and USC and mentors some undergraduates in areas of patient education and public health.    I have been an ICM instructor and taught at the KSOM of USC since 2000.

Things I am passionate about:

Bioethics: I chair California Hospital’s Bioethics Committee and edit the Southern California Bioethics Committee Consortium Newsletter. International/national service work:I make regular medical trips to Central America including Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico.  The sponsoring organizations are primarily Partners in Health—Nicaragua lead by Dr. Robert Bach, and Liga International.  I made three trips to New Orleans to help with the post Katrina recovery. Vulnerable populations:  I  am an expert witness in areas of torture and volunteered at and now run the Los Angeles Program for Torture Victims.  Scouts:   I am a Cub Master and Assistant Scout Master for troop 2131 Boy Scouts of America involving youths from low income families in Central LA. My medical students regularly help me with the troop and we have such fun together. Gardening:  I am a Master Gardener and enjoy community gardening. 

Free Time: I write and perform original music in the folk fusion genre, enjoy writing short stories, and play softball and soccer.  


John Rodarte, MD Pediatrics  


I am a general pediatrician. I was raised in Monterey Park, CA, attended Schurr High School in  Montebello, CA  and Harvard College, majoring in Biological Anthropology. I graduated from Med School: Keck‐USC School of Medicine in 1994 and completed my internship/residency at Mattel UCLA Children’s Hospital 1994‐1997. I have been working the Descanso Pediatrics, Huntington Medical Foundation in La Canada, CA since 2001 and on the  Board of Directors,  at the Huntington Medical Foundation since 2009.

Things I’m passionate about:

Teaching: I have been a Clinical Instructor, Keck‐USC School of Medicine, teaching ICM since 2003. International Service work: I founded and do medical work in Tijuana Mexico with Healing Hearts Across Borders. Sports team medicine: I have been the high school football team doctor at Schurr High School,. Search and Rescue: since 2003, I have worked with the Reserve L.A. County Deputy Sheriff and Montrose Search and Rescue Team

Free Time: Hiking/backpacking (the Grand Canyon, Half Dome in Yosemite), spending time with my wife and 2 boys. Mountain Climbing (climbs on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, Mt. Whitney, The Grand Teton, Mt. San Gorgonio, Mt. Baldy, Mt. San Jacinto), Playing drums/percussion.  


Ron Ben-Ari, MD Internal Medicine


Ron Ben‐Ari is a general internist who received his A.B. with honors from U.C. Berkeley in 1983 and his M.D. from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in 1987.  He completed his internship and residency in the USC Internal Medicine Residency Training Program from 1987 – 1990 and was a chief resident with the USC Department of Medicine from 1990 ‐ 1991.  Dr. Ben‐Ari joined the USC Department of Medicine faculty in 1992.  He is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine (Clinical Educator) and has served the Department of Medicine as Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Training Program, Director of the Internal Medicine Medical Student Program, and as Vice Chair for Educational Affairs.  Dr. Ben‐Ari was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society in 1990 by USC Medical Students and was awarded Outstanding Teaching Awards in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2007.   He was named a Master Teacher of the Keck School of Medicine in 2008 and was the Faculty Honoree for Medical Education and Humanism from the American College of Physicians Southern California Region I in 2009.  He was Chief of Staff at LAC+USC in 2005 ‐ 2006 and chairs the Keck School of Medicine Education Policy Committee.  

Things I’m passionate about:

Dr. Ben‐Ari is active in both undergraduate and graduate medical education at the Keck School, provides bedside and classroom instruction to internal medicine residents and medical students, and maintains a private practice in general internal medicine on the USC Health Sciences Campus.

Free Time:

Spends time with my wife and 2 children.