Meet Our Medical Leadership Staff
Kristin Brownell, M.D., MPH
Dr. Kristin Brownell received her medical degree and master’s degree in public health from the University of California, San Diego/San Diego State University Joint Program in 2001. She completed her family practice residency at Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa in 2004, where she served as Chief Resident in 2003. Dr. Brownell also completed a fellowship in underserved medicine from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego in 2005.
In addition to her role as core faculty, she runs the community medicine rotation. Her special interests include women’s, refugee and international health. She serves as the Dunya Women’s Health Collaborative Principal Investigator, a project which focuses on issues of refugee women’s health collaborating with five community organizations. She is passionate about social determinants of health and food insecurity. Additionally, she served as a volunteer Peace Corps member in Paraguay from 1994 to 1996.
Dr. Brownell is board certified in family medicine. She is also a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, California Academy of Family Physicians, Society of Teachers in Family Medicine and California Medical Association. Since 2004, Dr. Brownell has been teaching medical students for the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project. She co-leads the San Diego region of the CAFP California Residency Network.
Dr. Brownell is fluent in Spanish and has been part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2007.
Claudio Cabrejos, M.D., MPH
Assistant Medical Director of Psychiatry at Family Health Centers of San Diego, Dr. Claudio Cabrejos received his medical degree in 1988 from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru. After earning his master’s degree in public health from the University of Miami, Dr. Cabrejos joined the psychiatry residency program at the Tulane University School of Medicine. With the school’s medical anthropology department, he provided mental health services, including psychosocial assessments and treatment, to displaced communities in the Peruvian Andes. Upon completion of his residency at Tulane University, Dr. Cabrejos joined an advanced psychiatry residency program at Yale University, where he specialized in addiction psychiatry. He is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Board of Addiction Psychiatry. In addition, he is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Dr. Cabrejos has been part of FHCSD since 2002.
Sandra Cervantes, M.D.
Dr. Sandra Cervantes is the Assistant Medical Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Dr. Cervantes received her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston in 2007. She attended Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso, where she completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University Medical Center. She is a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Cervantes is a board-certified OBGYN and has been part of FHCSD since 2011.
Ava Chase, FNP
Dr. Chase has been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 1999 and is board certified by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She received her master’s degree in nursing from Graceland University and earned a doctorate in nursing practice from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She owned her own private family practice in Iowa for more than a decade before relocating to San Diego and joining Family Health Centers of San Diego in 2013.
Dr. Chase has taught in a graduate level nurse practitioner program for over 13 years and teaches procedures workshops throughout the United States. In addition, she serves as an expert witness for medical malpractice cases and has spoken at several national conventions, including the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. She has received several nursing awards, including an award from the California Nurse Practitioners Association. She also served as a board member for both the Iowa Nurse Practitioner Society and the North San Diego Chapter of the California Nurse Practitioner Society. Fluent in Spanish, Dr. Chase’s medical interests include Latino health care and primary care procedures.
Laura Coulson, M.D.
Dr. Laura Coulson joined the core faculty in 2016. She received her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco in 2000, which also included a one year junior pathology fellowship. She completed her family medicine residency at Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa in 2003, during which time she also attained a goal started in medical school of receiving her first-degree black belt at the UCSF Tae Kwon Do program.
Dr. Coulson’s interests include women’s health, breastfeeding support, outpatient clinic procedures including colposcopy training and preventive care. She is thrilled to be able to fulfill her passion for teaching and mentoring residents not only in the day-to-day acts of clinical medicine, but also in the nuances of practicing the art of medicine.
She is board certified in family medicine and speaks proficient Spanish. She is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and Society of Teachers in Family Medicine.
Christopher Gordon, M.D., FAAFP, AAHIVS
Dr. Christopher Gordon is the Program Director for the Family Medicine Residency Training Program and Chief Medical Officer at Family Health Centers of San Diego. He received his medical degree from the College of Medicine at Texas A&M in 2001.
While attending medical school at Texas A&M, he served as Vice President of the medical student class and was also a volunteer at the Outreach Clinic. After graduation, Dr. Gordon completed two years of training in psychiatry at UCI-Medical Center. He then completed a residency program in family medicine at the Riverside County Regional Medical Center. While at Riverside County Regional Medical Center, he was awarded the Intern of the Year Award and Resident Teacher of the Year Award in 2009. He also served as Chief Resident.
He is a member of the American Academy of Family Practitioners, California Academy of Family Practitioners, the San Diego County Medical Association and the Society of Teachers for Family Medicine. Dr. Gordon enjoys playing soccer, running and speaking German. His interests include sports medicine, HIV medicine and palliative care. He is board certified in family medicine and has been part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2009.
Ken Griffiths, M.D., AAHIVS
Dr. Ken Griffiths completed his medical degree at The Ohio State University in 1995. After completing his residency in Family Medicine, he worked in private practice for eight years prior to moving to San Diego in 2006. He spent eight years as faculty at the University of California, San Diego Department of Family Medicine, then joined Family Health Centers of San Diego in 2015.
Dr. Griffiths is a preceptor at the City Heights residency continuity clinic. He has his continuity clinic in Hillcrest and focuses on HIV care and prevention and LGBTQ health care. He is board certified in family medicine and certified by the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
Cynthia Jauregui, PSYD
Dr. Cynthia Jauregui is the Faculty Psychologist of Behavioral Health Medicine for the Family Medicine Residency Training Program. She received her doctorate in psychology in 2012 and her license in marriage and family in 2008. Dr. Jauregui recently completed the STFM Behavioral Science Family Systems Educator Fellowship and runs the Resident Wellness Program and Behavioral Health Clinic for the residency program. Dr. Jauregui has been with Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2004.
She has received specialized training in trauma informed care with a special interest in how trauma manifests physically. Her internships focused on serving both survivors and perpetrators of various types of trauma. Dr. Jauregui’s previous research explored the correlation between trauma history chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. She is fluent in Spanish, and has a passion for mindfulness and wellness.
Bahghi Keflezighi, M.D.
Dr. Bahghi Keflezighi is the Assistant Medical Director for Adult Medicine at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Dr. Keflezighi received her medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2005. She completed her family medicine residency at Scripps Mercy Chula Vista in June of 2008. Dr. Keflezighi has traveled internationally providing medical care to patients in Ghana, Mexico, Fiji, Peru, and Eritrea during her residency training.
Dr. Keflezighi served as the preceptor for our first APP Immersion Program class, is board certified in family medicine and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Dr. Keflezighi speaks proficient Spanish and Tigrinya. She has been a part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2008.
Suriti Kundu, M.D.
Dr. Suriti Kundu received her medical degree from the University of California, Davis in 1993. After an internship at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in San Diego she completed her residency in family medicine at UCSD in 1997. Over the years, Dr. Kundu has published several medical reviews and book chapters.
She loves to read and teach, and has been a Volunteer Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSD since 2006. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband, Suraj, and three sons.
She has been a Diplomate of the American Board of Family Medicine since 1997. Dr. Kundu speaks Spanish and has been part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2012.
Cindy Mangene, MSN, RN, FNP-BC
Cindy Mangene is the lead nurse practitioner at Family Health Centers of San Diego. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and Master of Science in Nursing degree from Vanderbilt University. She was a National Health Service Corps recipient and is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served in Honduras as a rural healthcare worker for the Ministry of Public Health. She is a member of the California Association for Nurse practitioners and board certified as a family nurse practitioner. She is fluent in Spanish and has been part of FHCSD since 1998.
Veronica Palomino, M.D., MPH
Dr. Veronica Palomino received her medical degree at The University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School in 2009. She completed her family medicine residency at The University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City in 2012 and her preventive medicine residency at the University of California, San Diego in 2014. During her preventive medicine residency, Dr. Palomino obtained a Master’s degree in Public Health from San Diego State University and served as chief resident in 2013. She also completed a fellowship in underserved medicine from the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego in 2015.
Dr. Palomino’s special interests include community medicine, underserved medicine and preventive medicine. She is director of a screening health fair in the Linda Vista community, where she supervises undergraduate students and preventive medicine residents.
Dr. Palomino is fluent in Spanish and has been part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2012.
Christian Ramers, M.D., MPH, AAHIVS
Dr. Christian Ramers serves as the Assistant Medical Director for Research & Special Populations and Director of Graduate Medical Education at Family Health Centers of San Diego. He earned his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2003 and completed his internship and residency at Duke University Medical Center in internal medicine/pediatrics. He completed a fellowship in adult infectious diseases and received a graduate degree in public health at the University of Washington. Dr. Ramers leads several clinical and educational programs supporting HIV and Hepatitis C treatment within our clinics, consults for the California Office of AIDS, the CDC and Project ECHO on HIV and HCV-related clinical care initiatives and is a co-investigator on several NIH-sponsored research projects in collaboration with University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University investigators. Dr. Ramers maintains a busy bilingual clinical practice providing specialty and primary care to underserved and homeless individuals of all ages.
Mike Schmerber, M.D., AAHIVS
Dr. Mike Schmerber earned dual bachelor degrees in Biology and Psychology from Texas A&M University before receiving his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch. He completed residency training at the University of California, San Diego. He is board certified in family medicine and has been part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2015.
As core faculty, Dr. Schmerber is involved in precepting in the residency continuity clinic, inpatient attending, didactic lecturing and coordination, program development and mentoring. His medical interests include resident education, behavioral health, LGBTQ and addiction medicine.
Jan Sebring, MSN, FNP-BC
Jan Sebring is a Family Nurse Practitioner and the Clinical Applications Coordinator at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Ms. Sebring completed her undergraduate degree in nursing at Villanova University. She was awarded her masters’ of science degree in nursing from the Medical University of South Carolina as a cardiovascular clinical nurse specialist. She received her Family Nurse Practitioner certificate from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Ms. Sebring has worked in the acute care hospital setting, taught at the undergraduate and graduate nursing level and practiced in the outpatient clinic setting. She is board certified as a family nurse practitioner. She is also a member of Sigma Theta Tau and California Association for Nurse Practitioners. At present she divides her time between the clinic and working on the Clinical Quality team at FHCSD. She has been with FHCSD for over 8 years.
Joe Anthony Sepulveda, M.D., ABPN
Dr. Joe Sepulveda serves as an Assistant Medical Director overseeing the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program at Family Health Centers of San Diego. He is also our physician champion in charge of overseeing the clinical planning, implementation and ongoing development of the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program. Dr. Sepulveda received his Bachelor of Science in Physiological Science from UCLA and his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He then received training in clinical research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital prior to receiving his formal psychiatric training at Stanford University Hospital & Clinics. He is a Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), Health Sciences, Department of Psychiatry and is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Sepulveda is also a member of the American Psychiatric Association, the San Diego Psychiatric Society, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the California Society of Addiction Medicine. In addition, Dr. Sepulveda sits on a California advisory board where he assists with how best to spread successful practices and lessons learned in addiction medicine more broadly into the primary care setting. Further, he is the consulting psychiatrist for the University of Washington AIMS Center – Archstone Foundation Community Collaborative Care Partnership Geriatric Grant. Dr. Sepulveda is fluent in Spanish and has been with FHCSD since 2013.
Charles Bart Smoot, M.D.
Dr. Charles Smoot is the Assistant Medical Director for Clinical Quality at Family Health Centers of San Diego. He is responsible for directing the organization toward improving quality metrics across a wide variety of national standards using interdisciplinary methods. He works closely with the medical providers and the IT department to help develop a robust e-decision tool, as well as improve our proprietary electronic health records system. Dr. Smoot received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2005 and completed his family medicine residency at UCSD in 2008. Dr. Smoot is a recipient of the UCSD Outstanding Contributions to Medical School Community Award and the Roderick K. Calverley Humanitarian Service Award, and was a member of the Gold Humanitarian National Medical Honor Society. He has traveled to both Haiti and the Honduras to provide medical care to patients. Dr. Smoot is board-certified in family medicine and speaks proficient Spanish. He has been part of FHCSD since 2008.
Khawla Suleiman-Qafiti, M.D., MAS, FAAP
Dr. Khawla Suleiman joined Family Health Centers of San Diego in 1998. She serves as the Chief of Pediatrics and Medical Director for Pediatric Development Services. Dr. Suleiman earned her medical degree from the University of Baghdad, Iraq in 1984. She completed a pediatric residency at the UCSF School of Medicine/UCSF Fresno-Central San Joaquin Valley Medical Education Program. She is board-certified in pediatrics and is a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Suleiman has great interest in community medicine, population management and child development. Dr. Suleiman enjoys caring for FHCSD’s diverse, multi-cultural families.
She completed a community pediatric fellowship at the University of California, San Diego. During and after her fellowship, she worked closely with the African community to help educate medical providers on cultural practices. Through a program with UCSD School of Medicine, she worked with a number of San Diego Unified School District underachieving schools and, led a team to help children with special needs and chronic illness to reduce absenteeism and improve school performance.
Dr. Suleiman earned a Master’s of Advanced Study degree in Leadership of Healthcare Organization. She is a UCSD Voluntary Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, has taught UCSD pediatric residents for over 20 years and is a member of the pediatric teaching faculty for FHCSD family medicine residents. She received FHCSD’s “Provider of Compassion” award, was nominated by San Diego Public Health Department for a “Public Health Champion” Award and by the Chair of the Child and Family Development Department at the College of Education, San Diego State University for the inaugural Simms/Mann “Whole Child” Award.
Garrick Tong, M.D.
Dr. Garrick Tong is the Assistant Medical Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Dr. Tong received his medical degree from Albany Medical College in New York. He attended the University of California, San Diego, where he earned a degree in biochemistry. He completed his psychiatry residency at the University of California, Los Angeles. Afterward, he completed a fellowship in child psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is board-certified in adult psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Tong is fluent in Cantonese and Spanish, and has been part of FHCSD since 2011.
Thao P. Tran, M.D., FAAFP
Dr. Thao Tran is the Associate Program Director for the Family Medicine Residency Training Program. She is the clinic director of the Family Medicine Center and runs the procedures clinic for the residency program. She received her medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 2000. She completed her family medicine residency at Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa in 2003, with a focus on care for the underserved populations of Sonoma County. She continued her work with immigrants and underserved populations after moving to San Diego.
Dr. Tran is fluent in both Spanish and Vietnamese. She has a particular interest in women’s health, maternity care, hepatitis B and sports medicine. She is board certified in family medicine and has been a part of Family Health Centers of San Diego since 2003.
Alan Zieg, M.D.
Dr. Alan Zieg is the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Dr. Zieg received his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1990. He completed his internship and residency at the University of Minnesota, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Zieg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has served as Vice Chairman and Chairman at two of our partner hospitals, Scripps Mercy Hospital and Sharp Grossmont Hospital. Dr. Zieg has been part of FHCSD since 1994.
Marsha Spitzer, M.D.
Dr. Marsha Spitzer received her medical degree from George Washington University in 1996. She completed her pediatric residency at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC and participated in the primary care track of her residency program. Following residency, she worked as a general pediatrician in Guam prior to joining Family Health Centers of San Diego in 2001.
As Assistant Medical Director for Pediatrics at FHCSD, she works with the Chief of Pediatrics on personnel and peer review, represents FHCSD at Scripps Mercy and Sharp Grossmont to provide optimal care to FHCSD newborns and leads the pediatric obesity pilot Healthy Together at FHCSD. Additionally, Dr. Spitzer mentors UCSD pediatric residents as a continuity clinic preceptor and supervises the FHCSD family medicine residents during their adolescent medicine rotation.
Dr. Spitzer is the Medical Director for Reach Out and Read San Diego and is on the Executive Board of the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and holds a national position with the AAP representing California pediatricians. Dr. Spitzer is board certified in pediatrics and is a clinical voluntary associate professor at UCSD.