Meet our Medical Advising Team

Kaplan's Medical Advisors use their experience and expertise to create an individual study plan that will help you succeed in your USMLE review and Residency Match preparation. Here is a sample of some of the valuable insights you can come to expect from our advising team…

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Dr. Silvia Argueta

Dr. Silvia Argueta is a graduate of U.E.E.S in El Salvador where she received a doctorate in medicine. After graduating, she spent time working for the underserved, uninsured communities in El Salvador and in several community clinics in the DC area. Before joining Kaplan, she spent a year working in the George Washington University Cancer Research Center. Being a foreign graduate herself, she is well-versed in USMLE exams and the residency application process. Having also been a student of Kaplan, she is a firm advocate and believer in the Kaplan programs. With her expertise, she has helped countless IMGs during their test preparation, providing detailed study plans, support and motivation and has seen them achieve success in obtaining a residency program. She looks forward to helping you on your journey to US Residency.

What med students ask her most often:
  • How long will it take to pass all the Tests?
  • Can I start Step 2 CK first?
Dr. Argueta's advice:

Kaplan gives you, as a student, the plan, but there is no USMLE without you! If you approach our programs with 100% of your focus and determination, we will guide you to achieve success in obtaining a US Residency!

Dr. Rafael Barrera

Dr. Rafael Barrera was born in Nicaragua and raised in Texas, and he attended medical school at the National Autonomous University in Managua. After graduating, he pursued a Masters in Public Health before once again coming back to the US, gaining experience in the healthcare and pharmacy industries. Now in Chicago, he serves as a medical advisor. His passion is teaching, and he uses high-yield materials to make connections with students' study plans. He also enjoys pop culture as well as singing and dancing, so get ready to be entertained!

What med students ask him most often:
  • How will I be able to remember all the material that I've gone through before my exam?
  • What is the best score in order for me to match into Residency?
Dr. Barrera's advice:
  • Go through your content like a P90X training: 3 phases of studying during your program, Phase 1: Preview; Phase 2: Review; Phase 3: Remediate
  • Three things impact your studying and test performance: a) academics b) finances, and c) emotions. Make sure that you find the best balance between these three in order to perform well on your exams.

Agnes Carrara

Agnes Carrara has over 20 years experience advising students and is fluent in both English and French. She has worked with student doctors who are pursuing medical careers in the United States, as well as Canada, and has extensive knowledge in the Match and Residency processes for both countries. Agnes is passionate about her students and truly enjoys helping them achieve their goals. She believes in hard work and dedication in order to be successful, and she is ready to help you to get there.

What med students ask her most often:
  • What kind of courses do you offer for the Medical Licensing Exam?
  • When should I start studying for the USMLE exams?
Agnes' advice:

The 4 P's: Planning, Preparation, Practice and Patience will lead you to your best score.

Dr. Jose De Leon

Dr. Jose De Leon is a graduate of the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba and is fluent in English and Spanish. After graduation, Jose spent several years doing medically-related research in one of New York's community hospitals. His passion for advising stems from wanting to make sure students prepare correctly for the USMLE exams to achieve results that they are personally satisfied with.

What med students ask him most often:
  • How do I know I am ready to take my exam?
  • Why aren't my Qbank scores going up?
  • What is a good score?
Dr. De Leon's advice:
  • Do it once. Do it right.
  • There IS such a thing as studying TOO MUCH.

Mary Diedrich

Mary Diedrich is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. She has spent the last ten years advising students and is committed to helping them achieve the highest scores possible on their USMLE exams. As a Kaplan Medical Center Advisor, as well as a National Medical Advisor, Mary has advised US and International Medical Graduates on their paths to Residency.

What med students ask her most often:
  • There is so much material to cover. Can you help me stay organized and on track to test well?
  • How do I know when I'm exam-ready?
  • It is hard for me to concentrate when I study. What are the best ways to stay focused?
  • How can I overcome test-anxiety?
Mary's advice:
  • Break down seemingly insurmountable tasks into many mini-tasks. This helps to show you've accomplished something, and the task is done. It also helps to encourage you to start the next one. A task that is attainable is always easier to start than one that appears too difficult at the onset.
  • Paraphrase what you read. Put it in your own words. Digest it. Own it. Record yourself. Play back when exercising, resting, driving…
  • Remove your distractions. What is hindering you from getting started with your studies each day? What prevents you from keeping focused? What pulls you away from concentrated studies? Turn off the cell phone, and sign off all computer alerts during study hours.
  • "Exceptions to the Rule" are abundant in medicine and require understanding the concept behind the fact. Don't be discouraged if this is hard to grasp at first. It takes practice to become familiar with this testing method.

Dr. Ravindranath Draksharam

Dr. Ravi Draksharam is from India and is a graduate from the University of Houston. He received his medical degree in the West Indies. He has been a medical advisor at the Houston Kaplan Center for more than eight years and has a true passion for advising students on the path to Residency. He is on the Board of Director's of the American Board of Surgical Assistants. He is fluent in multiple languages. Ravi is ready to meet with you and assist you with any questions or concerns that you may have in regards to the USMLE and Residency.

What med students ask him most often:
  • How many hours should I study per day?
  • How do they calculate the USMLE scores?
  • Do I have a chance to get Residency?
Dr. Draksharam's advice:

Study SMART, not HARD to do well on the USMLE exams.

Mohamed Eltayeb

Mohammed was born in Utah, but raised in Sudan. He went to medical school in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and moved to Chicago about five years ago. He is great at calming students in stressful situations and always has the right thing to say to help a student in need. He enjoys teaching and helping students in their clinical skills exams. He also loves soccer and often coordinates games with fellow doctors, such as yourself.

What med students ask him most often:
  • I am planning to do my Residency in (X) specialty. Should I consider doing something else?
  • I graduated from (X) country. What are my chances of getting matched?
  • I scored (X) in my Diagnostic Test. Do you think I would do well on the exam?
Mohammed's advice:

Sleep well, exercise and balance your diet.

Dr. Gibu George

Dr. Gibu George is a graduate of the Medical University of Lublin, Poland. As a Medical Advisor, Gibu takes pride in helping students obtain the best possible score on their USMLE exams. He works with students to customize individual study plans to make them as competitive as possible. He's here to give you the most up-to-date information on the USMLE.

What med students ask him most often:
  • When should I take my test?
  • How do I fill out my ECFMG Application?
  • What scores should I be aiming for to get into Residency?
Dr. George's advice:

Nothing is impossible. Know what you want, and get it.

Dr. Maryam Haghnegahdar

Dr. Maryam Haghnegahdar is the Medical Advisor at Pasadena Kaplan Center with more than six years of experience in medical advising. Being an IMG herself, she knows all of the intricacies on the pathway to Residency. She is very well known for being a passionate and, when necessary, a tough advisor. She cares for every student with such passion and follows up with them on a regular basis to make sure they are on the right track in preparing for the USMLEs. She is famous for her individualized study plans, and her students usually achieve the highest scores in the nation and match the first time they apply! She is fluent in English and Farsi and is currently serving as the President of the Iranian American Medical Association California Chapter. She also makes time to volunteer as a research assistant at UCLA.

What med students ask her most often:
  • What is considered a good score?
  • Do I have a good chance to Match?
  • How long do I need to study for Step 1?
Dr. Haghnegahdar's advice:
  • You can do it. It just needs time, patience and persistence.
  • The goal is not to just pass, but to pass with the best score possible.
  • All you need to do is to listen to your advisor and use Kaplan resources properly; you will never regret it.

Duane Hill

Duane Hill is a graduate of Wesley College and Duke University. He has worked in research but found his true passion in education, where he has spent the last 20 years working with, teaching and mentoring students. Duane enjoys advising students as they make their way along the path to Residency.

What med students ask him most often:
  • Do you really think I can do this?
  • What should I do first (or next)?
  • How do I schedule my exams?
Duane's advice:
  • When you are building a house, you can't hang the curtains before you build the walls. The same is true with your studies. You need to follow your study plan and do your preparation in the right sequence. You'll have a strong foundation, and before you know it, you will be mastering questions.
  • You are going to be doing all of the hard work, but I'll be standing beside you the whole time, cheering you on and giving you the support and advice that you want and need.

Dr. Tenzin Jamyang

Dr. Tenzin Jamyang is a graduate of University of Delhi, India. He is our Senior Medical Advisor and has a passion for helping students, acclimating them with the tedious USMLE journey, preparing study plans, ECFMG registration, ERAS application process and guiding them through the interview process to achieve their goals in attaining the Residency of their choice. He has seven years of experience working with medical students and graduates from all countries. He is your one stop shop for your USMLE journey.

What med students ask him most often:
  • How long will I need to prepare for my Step 1?
  • Is it true that IMGs will not get into residency after 2015?
Dr. Jamyang's advice:

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."" –Abraham Lincoln

Sherry Mirhosseini

Sherry Mirhosseini is a graduate of Melli University in American Literature and is fluent in English and Persian (Farsi). Since 2005, Sherry has specialized in helping hundreds of International Medical Graduates immigrate from their home countries by assisting them in applying for F1 Student Visas and helping them study for their medical boards at Kaplan in the United States. Sherry has first hand experience with the US medical system since her daughter graduated from UC Irvine School of Medicine and became the Chief Resident of Pediatrics for Kaiser. Her many years of experience as a medical advisor and her dedication to her students has led her to develop individualized learning plans and advising tips that help students successfully pass the USMLE and get into the residency programs of their choice. Sherry is looking forward to meeting new students every day.

What med students ask her most often:
  • What are my chances for getting into a residency program?
  • Have your students been matched into competitive programs like Radiology, Dermatology or Ophthalmology?
  • How do I study for the USMLE? Can I start with Step 2 first?
Sherry's advice:
  • I tell students everyday that taking the exam is an art. I tell them they are very smart, but in this competitive environment, you need a very high score and should not take the exam until you are ready.
  • I feel they are all my kids. I tell them they are not alone in this country and that I care and am here to support them.

Mark Ratliff

Mark Ratliff is a graduate of Ohio State University and has spent the past eight years instructing and advising international students and doctors. As a Kaplan test-taking expert, Mark uses personalized study techniques and his extensive teaching expertise to motivate his students and help them achieve their Residency goals. He believes that all students have their own plan for success and that he can help them find it! He also provides guidance regarding the Residency application process and the key ingredients to a successful Match. Mark is eager to help you get started down the pathway to Residency with Kaplan Medical!

Mark's advice:

In order to achieve success on these exams, you must have the determination to focus on your studies and the wisdom to know when you are ready. As your med advisor, I'll help you with both!

Dr. Muhammad Shah

Dr. Shah is a graduate of the Chandka Medical University, and is fluent in Urdu, Hindi and English. He earned a Masters in Health Services Administration (MPA/HSA) from the University of San Francisco. In addition, he is perusing his PhD in Leadership. Dr. Shah loves to help USMLE students to reach their goals. He is very passionate about providing services to IMGs /US Med students for the USMLE test, path to residency and licensing process. Dr. Shah prepares doctors for the USMLE Examinations by creating customized study plans.

What med students ask him most often:
  • Which NBME is most predictive of USMLE Step score?
  • What is the best time to start Qbank?
Dr. Shah's advice:
  • Have a study plan by December of your second year.
  • Distractions are the worst enemy of efficient studying. Avoid them at all costs!!
  • Set realistic goals. Do not set reading plans that you cannot possibly fulfill.
  • This test is a marathon. You have to study to do well. There is a lot of material, but you have to focus.
  • Externship can be helpful.

Michael Strippoli

Michael Strippoli is a graduate of Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL. With a background in counseling medical students to find the best-fit USMLE preparation courses, he has a passion for helping his students achieve their goals! He is ready and eager to meet with you and answer your questions about the USMLE and Residency timeline.

What med students ask him most often:
  • How many hours a day should I study?
  • How many questions do I need to do?
  • What Step 1 score do I need to match into Residency?
Michael's advice:
  • Have a plan. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
  • Take care of yourself. Nutrition, exercise and sleep are just as important as hitting the books.
  • You perform the way you practice. Make sure when you are preparing for the exam you create a similar environment to the way the test is administered.

Dr. Mary Valentine

Dr. Mary Valentine is a graduate of Kasturba Medical College, India. Having successfully completed the USMLE boards and worked briefly in Highland Hospital in Oakland, California, she understands the long and tedious journey that International Medical Graduates need to go through, in order to get licensed in the US Healthcare System.

She has advised students for four years at the San Francisco Kaplan Center in achieving success and looks forward to assisting students with any questions regarding the Match process and the USMLE.

What med students ask her most often:
  • How long does it take to study for Step 1 and Step 2?
  • I graduated five years ago. What are my chances of matching into a Residency program?
  • I am an F1 student. Should I apply to programs in California?
Dr. Valentine's advice:
  • Remediate, Remediate and Remediate: Identify errors, rectify and move up percentage points each day!
  • The Board Exam is a battlefield. Think like the test writer, and crack the code!

Ana Paola Villagomez

Ana Paola Villagomez is a graduate of George Mason University. She originally planned on going to medical school, but soon discovered she had a passion for research. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Infectious Diseases. Ana Paola enjoys seeing her students succeed and is very committed to guiding them on their road to Residency. She is fluent in English and Spanish. Ana Paola is ready to meet with you and assist you with any questions or concerns that you may have in regards to the USMLE and Residency.

What med students ask her most often:
  • What is my Residency timeline?
  • What are my chances of Matching?
  • How can I start studying for my Step 1 before lectures start?
Ana's advice:

Anything is possible, as long as you stay focused and committed.