Family Medicine Leadership Program Current and Former Student Bios

Class of 2024


Sheryl A. Cherian

Hometown: Lincolnwood, IL (first suburb to the north of Chicago)

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame, Major: Neuroscience & Behavior, Minor: Poverty Studies

Why RUSH? So many reasons! My roots are in Chicago, and I desire to practice in an underserved, urban setting, so the opportunity to learn medicine at such a community-focused institution on Chicago’s west side felt like a great fit. I also appreciated the sense of strong internal community I felt during interview day, and my interactions with peers, faculty, staff and others in the Rush community since then have solidified this intuition. Rush is truly a special place.

Why Family Medicine? Most of my post-graduate clinical experience is in geriatrics, both in hospice and in a primary care setting, and my undergraduate research interests were mostly in early childhood development and women’s health. Family medicine would allow me to explore my interests across the age and gender spectrum, “from cradle to grave,” with unique opportunities to get to know people in intergenerational and community contexts which of course are factors in their health. I am also drawn to issues of health equity; as a family physician, this holistic outlook would mean that advocacy would be a natural extension of my work.

Hobbies: long-distance cycling, running, playing ukulele, cooking with friends

Fun Fact: Two years ago, I biked across 5 U.S. states with my best friend!


Emma Klug

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

Undergraduate School: Kenyon College

Why Rush? I chose Rush because it is an institution that lives by its values. Its commitment to serving and supporting the surrounding community is demonstrated by every student, faculty, and staff member. The abundance of opportunities for students to engage meaningfully with the community outside of the classroom makes Rush a great place to learn what it truly means to be a physician.

Why Family Medicine? I am drawn to family medicine because I want to develop longitudinal relationships with patients. Additionally, family physicians have a comprehensive understanding of their patients’ lives in the context of their families and communities, and how this environment affects their health. As such, family physicians are particularly well-suited to affect positive change not only in the lives of individuals, but to advocate for entire communities and populations.

Hobbies: Playing soccer, running, cooking, hiking, camping, reading


Marissa Pharel

Hometown: San Juan, PR

Undergraduate School and Major: Villanova University, BS Psychology/BA Spanish

Graduate School: Columbia University, MS Human Nutrition

Why RUSH? The main reason I chose Rush was because of the visible commitment to underserved communities. I was impressed by the focus on health equity that is seen not only through community service, but even in the classroom through specific sessions and electives geared toward teaching students how to understand disparities and how to become true advocates in the community.

Why Family Medicine? As a black female, born to Haitian parents in New York but raised in Puerto Rico, I identify with both Black and Latino culture. Having witnessed first-hand the interplay between socioeconomic status and health care access, I knew I wanted to devote myself to my communities while addressing health disparities. Through reflection, I realized family medicine was the perfect path, as it aligned with my values and goals. Family Medicine would provide me the honor of serving as a patient-centered, culturally competent advocate for my patients, while building long-lasting relationships and experiencing continuity of care. I look forward to working directly with underserved communities to increase health literacy and more importantly, to remind them that they deserve to live long, healthy, happy lives.

Hobbies: I enjoy dancing, reading, taking long walks and exploring different restaurants (even though my wallet doesn’t appreciate it)!

Fun Fact: I speak 4 languages! Also, even though I grew up on an island surrounded by water, I really really dislike the beach with a passion.


Natali Smiley

Hometown: Izmir, Turkey

Undergrad School and Major: University of Washington, International Studies and Global Health

Why RUSH? Every member of the Rush family takes their commitment to service seriously and chooses daily, to live for others.

Why Family Medicine? It’s been said before, but FM incorporates and celebrates the comprehensive person every patient is- and what a privilege it is to learn how to enter into the details of our patients’ lives and walk with them through it all.

Hobbies: hosting, cooking, pretending I can take care of plants, traveling, language-learning, dancing to 70s and 90s jams,

Fun Fact: I have been inside and on top of the Pyramids of Giza.