About SD Kids First


Deborah Pontillo, Ph.D.


Owner/Director, San Diego Kids First
Pediatric Psychologist PSY #18934
Child Development, Behavior, and Learning Specialist
Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept. of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, UCSD
Deborah Pontillo

Dr. Deborah Pontillo is Owner/Founder and Director of San Diego Kids First. She has over 25 years of education, training, and experience in pediatric psychology and is regarded as an expert in the field of child and adolescent development, behavior, and learning.

Dr. Pontillo received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia . She went on to earn her Master’s and Doctorate in Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles , rated one of the top Clinical Psychology training programs in the U.S. She completed her internship in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. She then went on to complete a specialized pediatric early childhood (0 – 5 yrs) post-doctoral training program at the Developmental Evaluation Clinic at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. She opened San Diego Kids First in 2005 with the passion of identifying children’s strengths as well as their challenges, and enabling them to maximize their developmental potential.

“Every child is unique. Therefore, in order to help children overcome social, emotional, behavioral, developmental, and/or academic challenges, it is important that we do not become preoccupied with simply assigning labels. Rather, the focus needs to be on identifying the child’s individual strengths as well as their weaknesses in order to design effective strategies that suit their needs.. I work very closely with parents, schools, and other professionals in order to establish a comprehensive picture of the whole child. It is through this collaboration that the most significant and dramatic changes are realized.” – Dr. Pontillo

In addition to her work at San Diego Kids First, Dr. Pontillo holds a position as Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of California San Diego , Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, where she supervises UCSD Child/Adolescent Psychiatry Fellows in their final year of training at Rady’s Outpatient Psychiatry on their child and adolescent therapy cases. Additionally, Dr. Pontillo has also developed several online training courses for parents and teachers of children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, entitled “Bright Stars”, and has participated in numerous speaking engagements, media interviews, and podcasts. Click here to learn more about Dr. Pontillo’s other professional activities.
Dr. Pontillo’s specialties include: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD/attention issues, learning disabilities/differences, giftedness, anxiety , emotional regulation skills training, social skills training, stress management, oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), behavioral challenges, and other child developmental delays or concerns. She is trained in CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), short-term solution-focused therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. She is an expert in diagnostic assessment, and conducts both abbreviated and comprehensive batteries, depending on the needs of the family. She provides consultations, treatment planning and follow-up sessions, and is directly involved in all evaluations conducted at SDKF. Dr. Pontillo also consults regularly with all staff clinicians at SDKF to ensure all SDKF families are receiving only the highest quality of care.

Dr. Pontillo holds office hours Mondays and Wednesdays for consultation and evaluation appointments in Suite 111. She is not accepting weekly therapy clients at this time.

Dr. Pontillo lives with her almost 12-year old daughter, her 8-year old-son, her aspiring therapy dog Labradoodle puppy named Maple, and her cat, Pina Colada. She speaks Spanish and English, and loves sushi and Indian food. When not working she can be found with her kids at baseball /softball practices or games, taking long walks with Maple, or visiting with her kids and friends.

Sarah Rangel, Ph.D.


Staff Psychologist PSY # 29928
Specialist, Child and Adolescent Assessment and Psychotherapy
Bilingual (English and Spanish)

Sarah Rangel
Dr.Sarah Rangel joined our team in 2019 and works out of our satellite office in Suite 201. A native of San Diego, she is a licensed clinical psychologist fluent in both English and Spanish.

Dr. Rangel’s expertise is in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults in the following areas: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, behavioral, emotional and adjustment disorders anxiety, substance use, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, personality disorders, grief and loss issues, traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain management, thyroid and seizure disorders, diabetes management, and trauma.

As a staff psychologist with San Diego Kids First, Dr.Rangel offers assessments in the mornings twice a week and after school psychotherapy appointments. She utilizes evidence-based treatments (e.g., Behavioral Therapy (BT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills (DBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Mindfulness, among other therapies) while using a personalized approach to treatment.

Dr.Rangel completed her Bachelor’s in Psychology at San Diego State University (SDSU) after which she worked as a staff Developmental Screening and Services Coordinator at Rady Children’s Hospital while simultaneously working on her Master’s in Clinical Psychology at SDSU. She went on to get her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Washington State University (WSU).

Jacqueline Gamboa, Psy.D.


Staff Psychologist PSY # 22784
Specialist, Child and Adolescent Assessment and Psychotherapy

Jacque Gamboa
Dr. Gamboa is our staff psychologist who is available for mid-day and after-school appointments. She works out of our main office in Suite #111.

Jacqueline Gamboa, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and young adults. As a San Diego Kids First Staff Psychologist, she offers after-school appointments for psychotherapy/counseling and consultation.  Dr. Gamboa also serves as an important member of the San Diego Kids’ First assessment team given her specialization in standardized testing for children and adolescents with developmental and/or educational challenges, including Autism Spectrum Disorders and ADHD.

Dr. Gamboa received her B.A. in Psychology from La Sierra University and her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, San Diego. She has a broad range of experience working with children, adolescents, and families and is an expert in treating the following clinical concerns: Anxiety Disorders, Anger-Management and/or Behavioral Challenges, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parenting, Family Relationships, Depression, and Substance Use/Abuse. Dr. Gamboa has provided psychotherapy and assessment services in her role as psychologist at the San Diego Regional Center, Rady Children’s Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry, St. Vincent de Paul Villages, and the College Counseling Centers at USD and SDSU. Dr. Gamboa’s theoretical approach is primarily psychodynamic, but she also offers play therapy, family therapy, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and attachment and affect regulation-based interventions.

Nicole Smokler-Monsowitz, M.A., M.S.W.


Staff Certified Coach
Specialist in Preteens/Teens, Parents, Families

Nicole Monsowitz

We welcomed Nicole Smokler-Monsowitz to the San Diego Kids First team in 2017 and we are very excited she agreed to join us! Nicole is our Certified Preteen/Teen, Parent, and Family Coach who is available for morning, midday and after-school appointments. She works out of our main office in suite #111. She is also available for telephone appointments.

Nicole Smokler-Monsowitz is a highly skilled and specialized trained therapist and educator, whose areas of expertise include: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Crisis Management, Life Transitions (Divorce, School/College), Family Dynamics

Nicole holds a Master’s Degree in Behavioral Health Education from Teachers College/Columbia University, NYC and a Master’s Degree in Psychiatric Social Work from San Diego State University (SDSU).

Nicole completed an Internship as a behavioral health counselor/educator at Mt. Sinai Hospital Adolescent Health Center in NYC, and continued on to serve as a Staff Counselor/Educator there. She worked as a teen counselor/health educator for teens at Jewish Family Services (JACS) Teen Network for the chemically dependent and significant others. She also worked as the Program Developer at the National Center for Health Education where she created an emotional mental health curriculum entitled “Growing Healthy”, which has been widely implemented throughout California Public Elementary Schools and throughout the country. Nicole is also certified as a Drama Therapist where she practiced conflict resolution and family therapy throughout the New York Public School System and at Mt Sinai Hospital. This was done in conjunction with her busy and thriving practice/business on the upper West and East side of Manhattan.

After moving to San Diego, Nicole obtained additional training in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment at UCSD’s Outpatient Psychiatric Services. Additionally, she provided crisis management services for adolescents and families while at San Diego Youth Services.  Nicole went on to work at Alvarado Parkway Institute Behavioral Health Hospital as a group and individual therapist for those diagnosed with various mental health conditions and co-occurring disorders. She also served as a volunteer social worker at the UCSD Eating Disorder Treatment Program.

In addition to her work here at San Diego Kids First, she is also currently on staff at the Center for Discovery Residential Eating Disorder facility in La Jolla. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for Hope Village/Chesed Home, San Diego where she assists in the continued development of a licensed residential care facility for adults with mental illness.

As a San Diego Kids First Certified Coach, Nicole encompasses a philosophy of positivity, guidance, and insight in her work. She uses empathy, compassion and understanding in a nonjudgmental, client-centered manner. She is available for single consultations, short-term, and longer-term work, based on the needs and preferences of her clients.

Anna Williams, M.F.T


Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
In-home Behavioral Consultant

Anna Williams
Anna joined the San Diego Kids First team in 2018 and works with families in their home helping parents and their children to produce lasting changes in the most naturalistic setting. She coordinates with Dr.Pontillo to ensure that the child receives the most comprehensive and collaborative services.
Anna is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with specialties in behavioral therapy & coaching, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Behavioral Management for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Anna received her Bachelors Degree at Cal State Monterey Bay and went on to finish her Masters Degree at Alliant International University School of Professional Psychology . She is an AAMFT Board certified supervisor and currently supervises while also maintaining clinical practice at Rady Children’s Hospital. She serves as clinical faculty at University of Phoenix teaching in the Health and Human Services, Psychology and Masters in Marriage Family Therapy.

Anna also practices Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for depressed and anxious teens with an approach that is more time intensive and outcome oriented and dedicates time to volunteering at the Fleet Family Support Center and VVSD offering numerous hours of pro bono counseling for sailors and their families upon returning home.

When she is not working, she loves to hang out with her family, watching sports,and exploring the beauty of San Diego.

Madhuri Agashe


Office Manager

Madhuri Agashe
Madhuri is the Office Manager of San Diego Kids First, where she ensures the daily operations run smoothly.Since she joined the team in 2014, she has assisted in the development of the Bright Stars Video Series for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum, and the ABCs of ASD, Video Training Series for Mainstream Teachers of Children with ASD. She also helped to create an autism spectrum disorder parent buddy program. Formerly, Madhuri worked as a Research Technologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She has attended Clemson University, South Carolina, where her studies focused on Bioengineering.

In addition to working with us at San Diego Kids First, Madhuri is also credentialed to teach Science in Middle and High School . She also is a great mother to two wonderful daughters!

Emma Kaplan


Administrative Assistant

Emma Kaplan
Emma Kaplan was born and raised in San Diego and is excited to be back after spending the last four years in Santa Barbara. She recently graduated from UCSB with a B.S. in Biopsychology and plans to pursue a career in Nursing. Emma joined San Diego Kids First in 2018 and handles appointment scheduling, manages office inquiries, and coordinates communication between patients, families, and staff.
If Emma is not working or studying, you can find her at the beach or enjoying the beautiful outdoors!

Linda Griebel


Insurance Biller/Bookkeeper

Linda is San Diego Kids First’s insurance biller and bookkeeper, and is responsible for obtaining reimbursement for those who wish to use their out-of-network benefits for appointments at SDKF.

Linda has been a bookkeeper for mental health professionals since 1987. She has been a wonderful asset to the San Diego Kids First team since 2005 and we are so grateful to her for providing such a wonderful and unique service to our families!