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 a pediatric psychologist who specializes in child development, behavior, and learning. She is Owner/Director of San Diego Kids First, a pediatric psychology practice that offers diagnostic evaluations/assessments, parent consultations, therapy, and treatment/educational planning for the following concerns: Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, anxiety, anger-management, and other learning , social, or behavioral challenges.
Dr. Pontillo also offers online courses for parents and teachers of children with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has over 20 years of education, training, and experience in her areas of expertise. She 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. This was followed by a specialized pediatric post-doctoral training program in at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Pontillo worked as a staff pediatric psychologist at the Developmental Evaluation Clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital prior to opening San Diego Kids First in 2005. In addition to her clinical practice 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. Click here to learn more about Dr. Pontillo’s other professional activities.

Jacqueline Gamboa, Psy.D.


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

Jacque Gamboa
Dr. Gamboa is our staff psychologist who is available for mid-day and after-school appointments. She works out of our Satellite Office in Suite #114 (across the courtyard from our main office).

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

Nicole Smokler-Monsowitz is our most recent addition to the San Diego Kids First team (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 #105. 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)
  • Interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, communication skills
  • Family dynamics
  • Parenting, co-parenting, and stepfamilies
  • High functioning autism spectrum disorder (formerly Asperger’s Disorder)

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.

Madhuri Agashe


Office Manager

Madhuri Agashe
Madhuri is the Office Manager of San Diego Kids First, where she ensures the daily operations run smoothly. She is usually the first point of contact for families -answering all office inquiries, managing appointment bookings/rescheduling and facilitating communication between San Diego Kids First staff, patients, and other medical professionals. 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 concurrently attending SDSU where she is obtaining her teaching credential in High School Science. She also is a great mother to two wonderful daughters!

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!