The University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency makes all kinds of family physicians. Our progressive and innovative curriculum offers something for everyone and every interest. We invite you to meet some of our distinguished alumni who are making positive contributions toward advancing the practice of family medicine.
Alex Sable-Smith, MD
Class of 2017
They say you can do anything with the broad training you get in family medicine. I guess I took that idea and ran with it!
I’m three years out from finishing residency and I’ve completed two fellowships; one in hospice and palliative medicine and the other in interventional pain management, both at Stanford. I’m now living in San Francisco and working at the Palo Alto VA hospital.
How did I get here? I can trace it back to one of the very first patients I took care of in the hospital at Denver Health. He was an elderly man who had fallen, and as a result of his injuries couldn’t swallow safely. I asked him if he wanted a feeding tube, because if not, he would probably die. He asked me, “If I was your grandfather, what would you do?” I was taken aback. I learned in med school that we should be patient-centered, which I interpreted as “lay out the menu of options and let patients decide.” As this case taught me, I needed to learn how to make recommendations and help patients navigate a vast amount of uncertainty. I wanted to do a palliative fellowship to really sharpen my communication skills; talking with patients about goals and values so we could come up with treatment plans that make sense for them.
Coming from a background of family medicine is a huge asset in palliative care because you really have an appreciation of all the bio-psycho-social factors that shape a patient’s illness experience. I missed the “hands-on” element of full-scope family medicine though. As a palliative care physician I was already doing a lot of pain management, and I saw an opportunity to learn a new set of procedural skills to keep my hands busy. All the while, I found a cool niche in palliative care by adding procedures to my repertoire. I really enjoy doing ultrasound-guided procedures now as well as various nerve blocks that can help relieve pain from cancer. Now, what should my next fellowship be? Just kidding.
Allison Edwards, MD
Class of 2016
I am the proud founder and am a practicing physician at Kansas City Direct Primary Care, a primary care clinic focused on providing transparently priced, affordable primary care. To achieve this aim, we eschew insurance and care for our patients via a flat, fixed monthly payment -- never charging co-pays. Taking the insurance, employer, and broker intermediaries out of the doctor-patient relationship allows us to better care for our patients and to be more responsive to their needs. Additionally, we can use our leverage as a health care entity to negotiate for lower drug, lab, radiology, and specialist pricing. My bias is this: I want affordable and accessible care for all, and I believe that we can change the healthcare system from the bottom up. This is why I do what I do.
I started the clinic about 6 months after graduating from UCFMR, and my residency training has been invaluable time and again. While I never learned about how to run a business in residency (nothing can prepare you for it, really!), I developed the most important skill in medicine and life: I learned how to teach myself and how to find information I need to make the best decisions. Medicine requires quick thinking and adaptation; so does running a business.
Moreover, the breadth of procedures I perform and diagnoses I can manage has created immense value with my patients, and that all comes from a remarkable residency training at UCFMR. From lipoma removals to colposcopies to outpatient management of end-stage liver disease in an uninsured patient, I am able to keep my patients out of the ER and specialists’ offices -- which keeps their care in one place and more affordable, overall!
Anyone interested in direct primary care or owning a small business is always welcome to reach out.
Jonathan Seyfert, MD
Class of 2016
Rewinding my life seven years ago I chose to rank the UC residency #1 on my match list because it was clear I would receive training in an innovative culture with leaders that valued critically examining the way we deliver care. During my three years of residency, I worked on a team that lead quality improvement initiatives, saw all support staff (MA, front desk, RN) elevated to their highest potential and was exposed to innovative models of delivering primary care. All of these experiences strongly impacted how I was able to look at my current practice at NorthShore University HealthSystems.
Since graduating and joining NorthShore about 4 years ago I have become Chair of the Department of FM Quality Committee, which aims to improve quality metrics (chronic condition control, cancer screening rates) within the FM department. Often at these meetings it is said by my senior colleagues, “Jonathan’s residency is the standard in delivering outpatient care” or “let’s ask Jonathan about how his residency would do this.” At my practice of four FM doctors, I have become the leader in quality improvement and introduced the concept of the PDSA process. My work is primarily clinical and leadership, but I continue to enjoy teaching at the University of Chicago FM residency and by having medical students in my office.
None of the above experiences could have been attained had I not had excellent training by innovative attendings and leaders at University of Colorado. I truly believe that by doing residency at University of Colorado and getting a top-quality training experience I was much better prepared to be a next generation leader in my current organization. Residency was truly a magical time for my personal and professional development. I will carry my experiences and relationships from residency with me for the rest of my life!
Susie Piggott, MD, MPH
Class of 2018
I am a family medicine physician working in primary care, urgent care, and leadership for Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Out of residency, I knew I wanted a combination of patient care modalities given my interest developed at UCFMR in continuity, procedures and higher acuity. I was fortunate to find an opportunity with Kaiser that allowed me to split my time, with most of my time spent in continuity clinic initially. However, I really enjoyed the fast pace, acuity & ability to handle sicker patients in urgent care (including diagnosing appys, managing Afib with RVR, and utilizing IV diuresis for mild fluid overload while coordinating close follow up with myself in clinic 2 days later!).
I also got to put my fracture management and ski trauma experience from a month during 3rd year in Winter Park to good use! When the opportunity arose, I became involved in leadership for urgent care, working with two other site chiefs and our regional chief, all ER physicians. We oversee the three urgent care sites around metro Denver, which are run by a combination of core family medicine docs, ER docs and APPs. I felt well-prepared to work on a multidisciplinary care team from my continuity clinic experience at AF Williams, where routinely working with staff, RNs, social work and behavioral health were integrated into quality patient care.
Working for Kaiser under a shared vision of evidence-based, cost-effective patient care, with a diverse care team, we handle many medical issues that otherwise would require ER-based care in our urgent care sites. I still spend about 80% of my time in clinical work, divided between clinic and urgent care, with about 20% of my time devoted to leadership admin. With this combination, I’m able to use my knowledge of how the larger Kaiser medical home works in both departments to offer a unique perspective while at the same time balancing my own well-being and (hopefully!) creating career longevity for myself while minimizing burnout.
Jessica Zha, MD
Class of 2019
I am currently completing a fellowship in global health called Health, Equity, Action, Leadership (HEAL) through University of California, San Francisco, for which I have been working part time on Navajo Nation and part time in rural Nepal.
Being an immigrant myself, I have always had interest in serving a more global community, but it was through working at the Lowry Clinic in residency that I realized I wanted a career committed to global health justice. At Lowry, I had the unique opportunity to work with and take care of people from around the globe. This gave me a better understanding of how interconnected our world is, and how the basic privileges that I can access in my daily life are emblematic of a great imbalance of power in our world.
After my fellowship is complete, I hope to continue serving victims of oppression by providing care through safety net health systems in the US.
Harriet Huang, MD
Class of 2018
Hello! I graduated from the UCFMR Denver Health Track in 2018 and was thrilled to stay on as faculty for Denver Health.
My first career was teaching at a high school for newcomer refugee and immigrant students and when I transitioned to medicine, I was specifically looking for a program where I could continue working in such vibrant communities. I am grateful for the training I received with UCFMR and the opportunity to be part of a family of brilliant, kind, mission-driven individuals.
The things I love most about my practice today I learned through my residency training: caring for LGBTQ+, refugee and immigrant communities, treating patients with substance use disorders, and teaching/mentoring the next wave of physicians.
These days I split my time between primary care at the Westwood Clinic and urgent care at the Pena Clinic. Outside of medicine, I have fully embraced the wonders of living in Colorado: sunshine, mountains, and endless adventure. I also enjoy painting, cooking and eating all the foods!
Hayley Marcus, MD
Class of 2017
I am a proud graduate of the University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency (UCFMR), Urban Underserved track, class of 2017.
Currently, I am providing full spectrum primary care at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) and community hospital in the Denver-metro area. In the clinic, I love the variety of family medicine, but I am especially fond of women’s health, prenatal care, procedures, OB ultrasound, gender affirming care, and substance use disorder treatment. I derive great joy in speaking Spanish with patients for whom it is their preferred language, which is one many approaches I take to helping those who often feel marginalized or not welcome into healthcare or this country feel valued and respected.
In the hospital, I love caring for newborn babies, delivering patients that I cared for in the clinic, and using my outpatient perspective to provide whole-person care to hospitalized adults.
UCFMR trained me well with a broad skill set from a myriad of clinical experiences and armed me with the tools to continually pursue evidence-based knowledge.
Morgan Hungenberg, DO
Class of 2020
Coming from a family of farmers in Northern Colorado, medicine was not the obvious career choice. Though growing up in a farming community instilled in me a commitment to serve others and to take care of the people around me.
Growing up I became aware of the healthcare shortage in rural areas and the need for quality healthcare providers. This inspired me to go to medical school, and pursue my residency in the Rural Training Track through the University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency Program.
Being a part of the RTT gave me opportunities to train in both high quality academic health centers in the Denver area, and to join the thriving community of Fort Morgan. In Fort Morgan, I have gained the skills to become a full scope family medicine physician. I have also been able to become part of the community having started several community health projects such as a Walk with a Doc Program. In staying on as faculty with the RTT, I am continuing my work in expanding rural specific didactics for the residents, quality improvement projects led by residents, and developing a community medicine curriculum.
My training through the University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency Rural Training Track gave me the leadership skills I need to accomplish all of these things and has offered continual support for my growth as a physician, a faculty member, and a community leader.
Joe Adragna, MD, MHA, MGH
Class of 2015
The University of Colorado Hospital Family Medicine Residency prepared me for all the wonderful challenges and opportunities in medicine.
Six weeks after finishing residency in 2015, my small team started a rural practice. I took any and all, did inpatient critical care, outpatient clinic, and nursing home rounds. I was inundated with patients. Lines were forming at the door each morning. All the while, I was hiring and training staff, configuring our EMR, and setting up policies and procedures.
Fast forward to today and our organization has grown from a one-provider practice to a team of 11 providers in the fields of family medicine, urology, chiropractic, and psychology. We have two clinic sites.
Family medicine training at the University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency ensured that my challenges stepping out as an attending were not clinical. I was well prepared to tackle the sick, the well, and everything in between. A family doctor cannot fix everything, but we have a role in every pathology and the residency prepared me for that role.
This has allowed me to serve on our Physician-Hospital Organization (PHO) Board, our local health information exchange (HIE) Board, committees within the hospital, medical director to two nursing homes, and most recently as the incident commander for the county’s COVID-19 pandemic response and medical advisor to the public health director.
The future is bright for family medicine and even brighter for a University of Colorado Family Medicine Residency graduate. You set your limit!
Kyle Knierim, MD
Class of 2012
I am an Associate Professor in the University of Colorado Department of Family Medicine, where I also completed residency and fellowship training in Primary Care Practice Transformation. The CU Family Medicine residency appealed to me because of its strong clinical training and the CU Department of Family Medicine’s reputation for collaborative practice improvement projects across the state. As a faculty member I continue to blend clinical care with leading practice transformation efforts in the UCHealth system and around the state. I provide direct patient care at AF Williams Family Medicine Clinic, and I precept residents and other health professionals. I help lead cross clinic practice transformation activities for the CU School of Medicine’s primary care clinics, and I recently helped our clinics rapidly transition to virtual health during the COVID pandemic.
My scholarly work stems from being a curious, system-based thinker, which has driven me to seek out solutions to common problems faced by health care teams. I am the Associate Director of the Practice Innovation Program where I help deploy practice facilitation, data systems, and peer learning networks to disseminate evidence-based approaches into the daily workflows of busy healthcare teams. Our program’s mission is to foster innovation and improvement in health and healthcare. We aim to be a leading source of innovative tools, support, education, evaluation, and research designed to improve healthcare practices, systems, and communities of health. It has been a rewarding challenge to adapt our methods of support to numerous clinical content areas and to grow the network of trained physicians, practice facilitators, and other healthcare team members adept at making improvements in their own settings.
Aimee English, MD, CLC
Class of 2014
The ability to make an impact in the systems in which our patients receive care is one the reasons I was drawn to family medicine.
When I was a 4th year medical student, I helped my medical school implement a University-sponsored patient-centered medical home pilot project. At the time, not much was published, but I saw some info coming out of Colorado. I interviewed at UCFMR and found out we had a whole curriculum developed to Practice Transformation (at that time, the focus was patient-centered medical home). That is what led me to UCFMR, where I now get to lead the curriculum that drove me here! After residency, I did a one-year fellowship in practice transformation with amazing family medicine research leaders within our department. I was hired as a core faculty member in 2015 during which time we undertook a very large clinic transformation project based on higher MA: provider ratios and increased MA scope of work.
I have been in a leadership role within the clinic since that time and transitioned to being medical director in 2018.
Cleveland Piggott, MD, MPH
Class of 2018
Hi everyone, my name is Cleveland Piggott, and I'm an Assistant Professor and the Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Department of Family Medicine.
When I was looking for a residency program, I looked all over the country and quickly fell in love with UCFMR. The behavioral health training, unique clinic model at AF Williams, and mentoring support from our faculty were all incredibly attractive. It's hard to find programs around the country where I knew I'd get great training in working in the "ivory tower" and underserved care. Ultimately, all of that was the icing on the cake as I ultimately fell in love with the people here.
We're incredibly supportive and when people see a problem or a gap, we work together to make this place better for our learners and our patients. That's why I haven't left and many of our faculty are former residents of the program. We're a unique place to both work and play. I truly believe we attract incredible people and make them better physicians. During residency, I was able to explore my passions for medical education and social justice while furthering my leadership and behavioral health skills. I now have my dream job. I'm core faculty at our family medicine residency program (University Track), teach/advise medical students, have my own panel of patients, and lead efforts around social justice and health equity for our Department.
The training and doors opened to me at UCFMR has led to me becoming the first person of color in senior leadership in our Department of Family Medicine. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!
Kari Mader, MD
Class of 2015
My driving passion is equity. I did not know what that meant for me when I entered residency.
UCFMR through its curriculum, flexibility to pursue my evolving areas of interest, amazing faculty and larger network of mentors helped me “discover” myself. During residency, I was supported to help start a Colorado chapter of Primary Care Progress, given elective time and mentorship to help co-found the 501c3 DAWN student-run free clinic alongside interprofessional students, and supported to be the first Community Medicine and Public Health Fellow after graduation.
These experiences helped me realize that (for now), my “niche” within justice-oriented work is through supporting innovative health education programs, leadership development, and systems-based health change that includes community at the center of the system. The training and support I received set me up to be in my dream job from the time I finished fellowship.
I have been fortunate to practice and teach full-scope family medicine in underserved healthcare settings, teach the residency Population Health, Advocacy and Community Engagement (PHACE) curriculum and was Co-Director of the Family Medicine Undergraduate Medical Education program for several years. I have been a coach and consultant teaching Relational Leadership™ with Primary Care Progress since 2015 and am now Director of Clinical and Education Innovation for the Aurora Community Health Commons project, a community-campus collaborative aimed at improving population health outcomes in Aurora, Colorado.
UCFMR was my place to help me discover and become the generalist family physician I wanted to be. It can be for you too.
Cristina Rabaza, MD
Class of 2020
I fell in love with the concept of continuity of care the first time I walked into a Family Physician’s office as a medical student, and ever since then have set out to become the kind of doc who takes care of the whole patient and the whole family.
During residency, I found that I enjoyed clinic days doing office-based procedures and managing patients with chronic diseases, but I also loved taking care of those same patients when they came into the ER needing to be admitted to the hospital. The time I spent with my mentors at UCFMR also taught me that there is a world of careers in Family Medicine, from Palliative Care and Community Medicine to Women’s Health and Sports Medicine. I’ve gotten to see our Family Docs in action at the bedside, in national research conferences, on Capitol Hill, and throughout the community.
Among all of these influential experiences, I felt most drawn toward taking care of mothers and their babies, and I joined our comprehensive Advanced Maternity Care Concentration to focus my training on obstetrics and newborn care, both in the clinic and the hospital. As the program’s Ob Chief, I spent time putting together case reviews, giving didactic lectures about labor & delivery topics, conducting quality improvement projects, and most of all - delivering babies! Now I am completing a fellowship in surgical obstetrics to fulfill that same vision of continuity of care that first inspired me to become a Family Physician.
I am now well on my way to becoming a Family Physician who can take care of patients “from the womb to the tomb,” and I feel grateful to the University of Colorado’s Family Medicine Residency for giving me the opportunity and the support to pursue my passions in primary care.
Karin VanBaak, MD
Class of 2015
Hi, I’m Karin VanBaak. I’m currently faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Family Medicine and Primary Care Sports Medicine, and I’m a UCFMR graduate. I spend my time here wearing a few different hats – family doctor, sports medicine doctor, team physician at CU Boulder Athletics, and assistant director of our sports medicine fellowship.
When I chose UCFMR as my preferred residency, I knew I was considering a career in sports medicine, and wanted to be at a place that could prepare me for a competitive fellowship. The primary reason I chose this program, though is because I felt like this was a place that was a good fit for me to become the best family doctor I could be. I chose the University track because I was drawn to a program with a robust academic foundation and training, and where exciting and innovative things were being done to advance the field of family medicine. As a resident, I was able to customize my training, with electives such as academic sports medicine, community sports medicine, and obesity/weight loss.
My current practice combines a lot of really fun aspects of primary care, medicine, and sports/orthopedics. I am particularly interested in the intersection of mental health, bone health, and nutrition. Often this looks like coordinating multidisciplinary care for a young endurance athlete with an eating disorder. I am comfortable doing this type of team-based care because I trained in a program with really strong integrated behavioral health.
My sports practice also involves a lot of community outreach, which started as a resident, when I spent 3 years as the head team physician for a local high school. I would not be able to do what I do without a solid foundation of training in primary care, medicine, mental health, and community medicine.In my current job, I go by a lot of different titles, but always identify as a family doctor first. This is my dream job! And my family medicine training at UCFMR is the foundation of where I am today.