Meet Our Team
Sydney Siegel received her Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern California, where she also studied Cinematic-Arts and Business as an undergraduate. Through granting full merit-based scholarships for both her undergraduate and graduate education, USC has consistently supported Sydney’s vision in merging the arts, medicine, and social work. Sydney is a Psycho-oncology Clinician at the Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, where she provides psychosocial support to patients with cancer and their loved ones. She previously designed and facilitated mindfulness and expressive arts groups for Holocaust survivors, and continues to research creative new ways of assisting those afflicted by trauma and chronic illness to maximize their potential and live meaningful lives. Inspired by the artists in her life, Sydney recognizes the power of the arts to heal, and strives to bring more imaginative and artistic innovation to medical settings.
Brianna Lear is an MSW Candidate at the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. This year, Brianna serves as a Clinical Social Work Intern at Children’s Institute, Inc. Prior to attending USC, Brianna received her BA in Psychological Science at Vassar College where she wrote her thesis on the impact of musical engagement on social and emotional wellbeing. In addition to her undergraduate studies, Brianna continued her life-long passion for singing and was president of her collegiate a cappella group, The Vassar Night Owls. Brianna feels so strongly about sharing the arts because she has personally experienced the profound effects of music on her own health and wellbeing. In social work, Brianna strives to merge this passion for the arts with trauma-informed evidence-based practices to support the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations. Specifically, Brianna wants to utilize the arts to support healthy development in children. A nature and animal lover, Brianna enjoys hiking, traveling, horseback riding, and spending time with her two cats.
Jennifer Schoch is an MSW Candidate at the University of Southern California's Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. After earning a BFA in theatre Jennifer pursued a career as a performing artist and writer, while simultaneously volunteering with organizations such as Young Storytellers, Camp Laurel and Cedar Sinai's Music for Healing program and also teaching children's theatre. A highlight at USC has been performing with the USC Oriana Women's Choir and she is passionate about continuing to bridge the worlds of art, mindfulness and healing. Jenny is receiving her clinical training as an intern with Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology and teaches trauma informed. She is a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and recipient of the West Coast Project Stipend.
Keck School of Medicine Representative
Jen Franks is a dual-degree MD/MPH candidate at Keck School of Medicine. She received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience with a minor in Studio Art from Pomona College. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked on precedent setting research that attempted to change the discourse between clinical scientists and gender-queer and trans individuals, all the while nurturing a love of studio art that resulted in life-changing experiences including sculpting Carrara marble abroad. She then worked in an ambulance as an EMT responding to 911 emergency calls throughout LA County. As a medical student at Keck School of Medicine she has acted as co-president of MedLambda, the LGBTQIA advocacy and student interest group and received the AMSA/GLMA 2016 LGBT Health Achievement Award for her work as a member of the leadership committee for the Southern California LGBT Health Conference. She has also exhibited her work in the Hoyt Gallery. Currently, she is working on research in medical education, studying how to improve future doctor’s LGBTQIA awareness and comfort with sexual history taking as well as clinical research on male hormonal contraception and male engagement in reproductive issues. Her art practice has been a discussion of both truth and humor often through hyper-realistic sculptures. She intends to apply into residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and hopes to continue to bring her love of art and advocacy for women and minority populations together in her future career.
Emily Gelber Frumkin
Director of Operations, 2017-2018, Advisor
Director of Programming, 2017-2018
Rosamaria Alamo, LCSW
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Rosemary Alamo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has 20 years of experience in social work serving children, youth and families in diverse settings to include school, community based organizations, public child welfare and health care. Her career has focused on promoting the well-being, health, and mental health of vulnerable and at-risk populations along with building appropriate infrastructures that will support them. Professor Alamo currently heads a new innovative initiative that brings together law enforcement and social work professionals to create meaningful change in regards to how these two fields collaborate to support communities in need. She is also finishing her Doctorate in Behavioral Health at Arizona State University.
Michal Sela-Amit, PhD, MSW
Clinical Associate Professor, University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Dr. Sela-Amit is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Her areas of expertise are abuse and neglect in children, youth, and families. She has over 25 years of research and clinical social work practice experience with children, youth, and families. She has developed several courses on child and adolescent development and advanced practice as well as Family and Group therapies. She serves as a lead faculty instructor at the Department of Children, Youth and Families. In addition, she specializes in the area of the arts integration with social work. She developed and led an expressive arts global immersion course in Israel. Currently, she heads the School’s Arts and Social Work Faculty Initiative Group as well as chairs the National Social Work and the Arts Roundtable. She is an advisor to non-profit organizations working with the arts to empower incarcerated and at-risk youth. Her work in these areas is published in journals and presented at national and international conferences.
Pamela Schaff, MD
Director of the HEAL (Humanities, Ethics/Economics, Art, and the Law) Program at Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Pamela Schaff, M.D., graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in English Literature, and received her M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She has practiced pediatrics since completing her residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and has taught in the Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) program since 1986. She served as Director of the ICM program from 1996 to 2007, Assistant Dean for Curriculum from 2007 to 2012, and Associate Dean for Curriculum from 2012 until August 2016.
Dr. Schaff served as Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) representative for the Western Group on Educational Affairs from 2009-2012, and as national UGME chair for the Group on Educational Affairs (GEA) of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) from 2012-2014. She now chairs the GEA’s working group on professional identity formation. Her current areas of investigation include professional identity formation, and the role of the arts and humanities in medical education. Dr. Schaff was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1998, 2002, and 2005, KSOM’s Master Teacher Award in 2005, the USC-Mellon Mentoring Award in 2008, and USC’s Remarkable Woman Award in 2010. She is currently a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at USC.
Susan Schneider Williams
Fine Artist, Passionate advocate for brain health and Lewy Body Dementia awareness in honor of late husband, Robin Williams
Susan Schneider Williams is a fine artist, author and advocate. Susan's paintings are in numerous private collections throughout the US and Canada and her first international show is set for 2019 at the Haynes Fine Art Gallery in London. Susan studied design at UCLA and went on to receive her BFA in graphic design from California College of the Arts. Her fine art business developed out of a 25-year graphic design career in which she founded and ran Critical Eye Design specializing in logo and brand development, packaging design and marketing. In 2014 when her husband Robin Williams died from Lewy Body Dementia, she set out to raise awareness about this little known yet devastating brain disease. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The View and CBS This Morning. Susan moderated the 2016 Forbes Healthcare Summit panel, “Healing The Brain”, and remains committed to raising awareness for brain disease. In 2016 The American Brain Foundation honored her with their Commitment to Cures Award. She authored, “The terrorist inside my husband’s brain” editorial for Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Susan serves on the board of directors for the American Brain Foundation.
Simi Rahman, MD, MACM, FAAP
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Suraiya Simi Rahman completed her MBBS degree from the Aga Khan University Medical College, in Karachi, Pakistan, and Pediatric Residency at Jacobi Medical Center, The Bronx, New York. She spent her early career as a Pediatric Hospitalist at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Moving to Los Angeles in 2010, she completed a Masters degree in Medical Education while designing and teaching courses in Professionalism and the Medical Humanities at the Keck School of Medicine.
She has given talks nationally and conducted workshops on innovations in medical education and teaches the Medical Arts and Humanities Selective at the Keck School of Medicine. At LAC+USC she designs and implements innovative curricula in leadership and medical education for the developing resident physician, she teaches inpatient clinical pediatrics, and is faculty mentor for residency mindfulness. Professor Rahman also practices yoga and extra-curriculars in the form of a Fiction Book Club and StorySlam evening for LA County Residents.
Sunita Puri, MD
Medical Director For Palliative Care, Keck Medical Center of USC,
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
As a clinician-educator, Dr. Puri believes that teaching primary palliative medicine across medical disciplines and to all levels of trainees is essential to meet the growing need for palliative medicine in our country. She is committed to developing creative approaches to teaching advanced communciation skills and symptom management. In her clinical practice, she has a particular interest in palliative medicine for cardiac, surgical and ICU patients, and in developing educational curricula for surgeons and cardiologists on earlier integration of palliative medicine into their patients’ care.
Dr. Puri’s research and teaching interests also include clinical ethics. She is Co-Chair of Keck Hospital’s Ethics Committee and the Humanities & Ethics Curriculum Committee for the medical school. She teaches "Advanced Clinical Ethics" to second-year medical students at the Keck School of Medicine and serves on the medical school's Humanities and Ethics Curriculum Committee. Dr. Puri's writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, "A Piece of My Mind" section in the Journal of the American Medical Association and JAMA Internal Medicine. In 2015, she was named a finalist for the PEN Center’s Emerging Voices Writers’ Fellowship, and has received writing fellowships from the Mesa Refuge (Spring 2017), The MacDowell Colony (Fall 2017) and UCross Foundation (Fall 2017). She is writing her first book, a memoir about her personal and professional journey to the practice of palliative medicine, that will be published by Viking/Penguin.
Director of Student Relations
Rebecca Stein is an MSW Candidate at the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at The University of Southern California. She previously interned at The Relational Center, a non-profit that provides Gestalt therapy, somatic body work, and incorporates various expressive mediums into the clinical setting with low income adults who experience distress. She feels privileged to have interned at an organization, which taught her the importance and scientific evidence of maintaining relationships for one's overall wellness. She is currently interning at The Pain Psychology Center where she provides counseling for those suffering from chronic pain by tapping into repressed emotions through a creative treatment approach. She also currently assists in research regarding psychiatric care in emergency settings for the SAKS Institute at USC Gould School of Law. She hopes to discover ways in which the arts can be incorporated into emergency medical settings to reduce incidences of trauma. She spends some of her free time volunteering with the elderly and would love to start incorporating more of the arts with this population. She is a University of Georgia, Phi Beta Kappa graduate. Through the arts, she wants to teach adults the permissibility and healing effect of nourishing one's inner child. As a youngster, Rebecca would often sing, dance, draw, and laugh. As an adult with so many responsibilities, she soon lost incorporating these activities in her daily schedule. On any given day, you can find her by the ocean water, soaking up the sun, dancing and singing, hiking in nature with friends, painting, and creating collages.
Director of Finances
Marissa Hernandez was born in San Diego, California. She attended community college and later transfer to Pepperdine University. While at Pepperdine, Marissa was involved in the Japanese club as well as became a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity. She graduated with a Bachelors in Psychology. Before she attended USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Marissa worked for the City of El Cajon. She worked heavily with the community as a part of the recreation department. Marissa has a love and passion for the arts. She paints, sketches, creates films, and take photos. A goal of her’s is to open an art gallery and present the work of her clients with their permission. She believes strongly that art is an effective intervention that helps clients health and wants to show the world her clients perspectives.
Amanda Cruz, MBA
Director of Digital Marketing
Amanda Cruz is an MSW Candidate , Student Worker and Intern for the Suzanne Dworak Peck School of Social Work . Amanda holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from the University of California, Riverside in addition to an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Expressive arts have always played a central role in Amanda’s life. Amanda has performed in vocal groups and brass ensembles throughout Southern California. She has also served as a graphic artist for Anheuser-Busch and is a registered yoga teacher. Through the lens of the expressive arts Amanda’s goal is to holistically foster the mind/body connection encouraging awareness of one’s emotional state with increased focus on healing to overcome adverse emotions.
Chan Occupational Therapy Representative
Allie Schmiesing is a doctoral student at the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy on the advanced clinical track at Keck Hospital of USC. She is currently part of the Medicine X student advisory board, the Origami Innovations team, and served as a 2017-2018 Albert Schweitzer Fellow. She is passionate about innovating novel and diverse healthcare solutions for underserved populations.