San Diego Imperial Leadership


Violeta Aguirre

Violet Aguirre serves as a Revenue Cycle Manager at Scripps Health, where she oversees the Public Resource Specialists Department and the Scripps Mercy Chula Vista Access team. With over 16 years of healthcare experience, her primary focus has been on assisting unfunded and underfunded patients. Now leading two teams, she is dedicated to streamlining patient interactions, emphasizing quality outcomes, and enhancing the patient experience.

Before joining Scripps, she worked as an Eligibility Worker at the County Health and Human Services Agency, gaining valuable program knowledge. She actively participates in the HOPE Program Liaison workgroup and has held various leadership positions within the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), including Director of Education, Vice President, and President Elect. Currently, she serves as the President of the HFMA San Diego-Imperial Chapter.

A San Diego native, she resides in the city with her husband and daughter. She enjoys the outdoors, is a Jeep girl, loves to binge watch shows but prioritizes spending quality time with her family.

Kellie Hooper

Kellie Hooper is a seasoned, passionate, strategic leader with a love for HFMA. Kellie has been involved with HFMA since 2012 and happily served in many roles across Region 10 and 11. Currently Kellie serves at the President -Elect for the San Diego Imperial Chapter and as the co-chair for the largest volunteer conference in the country, Western Symposium. HFMA has brought a tremendous amount of value both personally and professionally. Kellie has gained a endearing family of professionals that offer growth and life long friendships. Much gratitude  for the opportunity to serve HFMA while sharing the value with the future generation as Hooper has brought her daughter to participate in HFMA events such as the Women’s Events and the Family hosted group events. Thank you HFMA.

Perla Pace
Immediate Past President

Perla Pace, manages access services and financial counseling for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego County. Sharp HealthCare is a large not-for-profit integrated health care system serving 3.2 million residents annually. Perla is responsible for ensuring uninsured and underinsured patients are connected to health care resources at four acute care hospitals and two specialty hospitals.

Pace has served as programs chair 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. She has participated in special event planning including the 50th anniversary celebration and 5th Annual Women’s event.

She earned a Bachelors’ degree from the University of Phoenix where her area of study focused on healthcare administration and leadership. Perla Pace is an expert in organization change and is certified as a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

Sean Krausz
Vice President

Sean Krausz is currently a Manager on the Healthcare Transformation team at Mazars USA, a large audit, tax, and advisory firm, where he delivers operational and financial performance improvement to hospitals and health systems.

Prior to joining Mazars, Sean was the Manager of Revenue Risk & Audit at Palomar Health where he was responsible for revenue cycle vendor management, financial reporting, process/workflow redesign, cash analytics, and automation strategy.

In addition to his time at Palomar Health, Sean worked at Triage Consulting Group for 8 years, helping hospitals and health systems recover and prevent reimbursement losses and as an Associate Director for an RCM AI/Automation company where he worked closely with revenue cycle leaders, IT, and engineers to facilitate automation strategy and deployment.

Sean has over 14 years of professional experience in healthcare and holds a degree in Biopsychology from the University of California Santa Barbara.

Amanda Escobedo

Amanda Escobedo currently serves as the Revenue Cycle Training Specialist at Sharp HealthCare, located in San Diego County. In this pivotal role, she is instrumental in ensuring the comprehensive training of healthcare personnel within the organization to proficiently navigate the intricacies of the revenue cycle process.

Prior to assuming her responsibilities as a Revenue Cycle Training Specialist, Ms. Escobedo held the position of Lead for both the Financial Counselor and Public Resource Specialist teams at Sharp HealthCare Metropolitan Campus. In this capacity, she facilitated connections for uninsured and underinsured patients with vital healthcare resources. Notably, alongside her co-leaders, the Public Resource teams were honored with the 2021 C.O.R.E Award and Pillar of Excellence for their role in identifying and reporting a potential fraud scheme to the Medi-Cal Fraud Department. This action ultimately prompted a state investigation and the subsequent sentencing of individuals responsible for significant financial losses to California’s Medi-Cal Access Program (MCAP), exceeding $1 million.

Before her tenure at Sharp HealthCare, Ms. Escobedo held a position with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency as a Health and Human Services Specialist (HSS) Supervisor. In this role, she oversaw eligibility operations and led a team of HSS professionals in pioneering the implementation of Telephonic Semi-Annual Reports for CalFresh recipients. Additionally, she served as the Subject Matter Expert for the Medi-Cal program and contributed significantly to the maintenance of critical training documentation for the County’s Call Center.

Amanda Escobedo holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and boasts over 12 years of invaluable experience in patient eligibility and supervisory roles within the healthcare sector. Her expertise and dedication have consistently contributed to the advancement and efficiency of healthcare delivery systems.

Gintare “Gin” Ambotaite
Secretary – Back Up

Gintare (Gin) Ambotaite is the manager of Continuous Improvement Analytics team within Revenue Cycle department at UC San Diego Health. Gin and her team work closely with Revenue Cycle leadership to develop and track key performance metrics to proactively identify issues and solutions via data driven analyses to support department goals. Prior to joining UCSD, Gin worked as a healthcare analyst at Huron Consulting Group where she focused on process improvement strategies in Revenue Cycle.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Management and Bachelors of Arts in International Affairs from University of Colorado – Boulder.

Fahd Benjalil

Fahd Benjalil currently serves as the Chief Financial and Operating Officer (CFO/COO) for SHARP Coronado Hospital. After a decade in the Corporate Finance industry, Fahd joined the SHARP Grossmont Finance team in 2011. His efforts there and reputation for integrity led to his current position as SHARP Coronado Hospital CFO/COO. In addition to his finance and operations experience, Fahd holds a Six Sigma certification and is trained on the principles of a High Reliability Organization (HRO).

Fahd believes that hard work, strong relationships, and the willingness to give back to the community are the necessary pillars for a strong foundation to a successful career. Fahd has been involved with HFMA for over 10 years and has held various roles within the chapter culminating with chapter president for 2018-2019. Fahd currently serves on the HFMA National Advisory Committee.

Fahd holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from National University in San Diego, CA. He is proud of his recent U.S. naturalization from his home country of Morocco, and also a proud resident of San Diego’s East County where he lives with his wife, Diedre, their three children, a dogs and a cat.

Daniel Bustamante
Treasurer – Back Up

Directors and Committee Chairs

Cindy Pizarro
Director of Programs – Education

Cindy Pizarro is currently the Revenue Cycle Customer Service Coordinator at UC San Diego Health. She oversees the SBO Customer Service call center by analyzing and monitoring agent call statistics and the operational needs of the call center. She is a graduate from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is a Certified Revenue Cycle Representative (CRCR) from the Health Care Financial Management Association (HFMA). Prior to UC San Diego Health she worked in the dental field for 9 years.

Cindy started with the SBO Department as a Customer Service Professional for 2 years. During that period, she was a mentor to her peers and worked closely with leadership on the implementation of SBO’s process improvements. One of her goals was to continue to expand her knowledge in the healthcare billing industry, guiding her to her current role as a SBO Coordinator.

Justin Barlow
Co-Chair of Programs

Tonya Richardson
Director of Programs – Social Events

Director, Early Out
CompSpec, Inc.

After 25 years with the California Business Bureau (CBB) as VP of their San Diego Operation, Tonya Richardson joined the team at CompSpec in May 2024.  CompSpec, a leader in Revenue Cycle solutions, has a 35-year proven track record as a hospital vendor; joining the CompSpec Leadership Team was an evolutionary step in her career.

Tonya held many titles with CBB as she advanced her career in Accounts Receivable Management. Through these experiences, she has developed a sound understanding of operational needs and satisfied client service and sales needs. Tonya has an astute knowledge of managing medical receivables, is proficient in account flow management, eager to manage special projects, and has a consistent and successful record for delivering results. Tonya is well-versed in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, The California Rosenthal Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. She has a high level of understanding of HMO/PPO Billing, Workers’ Compensation Billing, and self-pay Pay Medical Receivables.

Tonya is currently the Social Chairperson for the San Diego-Imperial Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). She also spent many years as an active member of the California Association of Collectors Board of Governors. Through these associations, Tonya became involved and concerned with legislative issues that potentially affect the collection of healthcare accounts. She has attended meetings with state legislators in Sacramento to lobby for or against bills and potential legislation that have or would have likely impact on the collection industry as well as the healthcare revenue cycle.

Tonya lives in Poway, CA, with her husband. Together, they have five young adults aged 13 to 27. Her favorite pastimes are being outside, watching her kids play sports, wine tasting with her husband, and cooking in her kitchen. She is also training for her 10th Susan G. Komen 3-Day, which benefits the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund.

Christina Bolanos
Director of Programs – Social Media

Manager, Revenue Cycle Performance Improvement

Christina Bolanos is responsible for hospital charge integrity and revenue cycle training efforts for Sharp HealthCare – a fully integrated healthcare delivery system with 2,110 licensed acute care beds at 4 acute care and 3 specialty hospitals, 3 affiliated medical groups, a health plan, 3 skilled nursing facilities, 21 outpatient clinics, and 5 urgent care centers.

Christina oversees charge integrity and training teams, safeguarding processes that produce accurate, compliant, clean claims across for the system. Her charge integrity team who are system-wide operational experts on TES edits, and ensures sound charge entry and reconciliation processes for all departments. Her training team oversee all revenue cycle employees are trained and given the tools to do their job with the most current revenue cycle knowledge.

Prior to her current position, Christina was the manager over laboratory revenue cycle billing and behavioral health patient access services teams at Sharp HealthCare.

Christina has over 17 years of professional experience, 14 of those years in supervisory roles. After starting her healthcare career as a per diem at Sharp HealthCare Pathology Laboratory, Christina moved into a leadership role helping establish Sharp HealthCare’s first and only outreach laboratory revenue team. Christina was recognized with prestigious “Core” awards for her stellar results in denials management and behavioral health financial counseling efforts.

Lizzete Tupas, MBA, RHIA, CCS, ROCC, CRCR
Co-Chair of Social Media

Lizzete Tupas is a seasoned professional with a career spanning 25 years in healthcare. Her journey in the industry began in the field of Health Information Management and has evolved into her current role as a Revenue Integrity Professional for Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. With a passion for education, technology, and performance improvement, Lizzete has made significant contributions to process standardization and development of programs that support clinical workflows and revenue enhancing opportunities.  

Lizzete’s work has garnered several awards including an Individual People CORE Award at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Staff of the Year at Sharp Metro Medical Campus, and two Department Finance CORE awards with Sharp System Revenue Integrity.  

Lizzete recently graduated from Western Governors University, where she attained a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management. She is a Registered Health Information Administrator and holds several certifications including Certified Coding Specialist (AHIMA), Radiation Oncology Certified Coder (AMAC), and Certified Revenue Cycle Representative (HFMA). She is an active member of several associations including SDHIA, NAHRI, and HFMA San Diego-Imperial.   

Sylvia Thompson
Director of Communications

In her current role as Assistant Director Rev Cycle at UCSD, Sylvia has the opportunity to leverage over 30 years of experience in Healthcare to enhance existing processes, develop system optimizations and, most importantly, to mentor staff. 

Sylvia oversees the billing functions of professional services rendered at UCSD as well as the functions performed by the Underpayment, Cash and Credit Recovery, Claims and Provider Enrollment teams.  Sylvia also has the opportunity to collaborate with the Coding, Revenue Integrity, HB, Contracting and SBO departments in her role.  It is an exciting and challenging position and one she is proud to hold.

Sylvia is passionate about mentoring staff and getting everyone to meet their full potential.  She believes that an organization’s biggest asset is the relationship fostered amongst its colleagues.  Through eliminating obstacles and gaining insight into what motivates people to do their best, Sylvia consistently strives to promote a sense of collaborative accomplishment where a win is a win for all.

Sylvia maintains multiple coding certifications through the AAPC; CPC, CPB, CPPM and maintains yearly CEU to stay abreast of all changes in payor policies, regulations and coding mandates.  Sylvia holds a LSSGB, as well as Epic certifications in Billing Charge Capture and Billing Insurance Follow-Up.

This is Sylvia’s second year volunteering for the San Diego-Imperial chapter.  Sylvia served as the Co-Chair for Social Media and the Chair for the annual Women’s Event in 2024. 

Zohal Aslami
Director of Sponsorship

Zohal Aslami currently serves as the Revenue Cycle Director at Kaiser Permanente-Riverside Service Area. She is instrumental in optimizing revenue operations for efficient financial performance with extensive experience in claims management, billing processes, and authorization procedures.  Zohal brings unparalleled expertise to her role. Her deep understanding of healthcare revenue cycles allows her to streamline processes effectively, driving revenue growth and operational excellence within Kaiser Permanente.

Zohal’s career is characterized by a commitment to excellence and a passion for results. Her strategic insights and analytical skills enable her to identify areas for improvement and implement innovative solutions, fostering teamwork and driving sustainable success within Kaiser Permanente’s revenue cycle operations. Beyond her professional pursuits, Zohal remains dedicated to staying abreast of industry trends, ensuring she remains at the forefront of revenue cycle management practices. With her blend of expertise, leadership, and dedication, Zohal is a driving force in safeguarding Kaiser Permanente’s financial health and operational efficiency.

Laurel C. Murray
Co-Chair of Sponsorship

Laurel C. Murray presently works for the University of Kentucky HealthCare system as the Patient Financial Services Billing Manager.  She recently joined UK HealthCare in April 2024 and is responsible for the hospital billing team as well as the system documentation team.  She collaborates with the Transplant Manager and IT Manager to ensure clean claim submissions.

Prior to joining UK HealthCare, Laurel worked for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego for 28 years.  She started her career with Sharp HealthCare in 1996 in the finance department and held various roles as an Associate Accountant, Staff Accountant, and Net Revenue Analyst.  Laurel was promoted to Manager, Patient Financial Services in 1998 and spent the last 26 years of her career with Sharp HealthCare managing the non-government DNFB, billing, follow-up, and denials for the organization.

Laurel has a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from San Diego State University.  She was a member of the Student Accounting Society and National Association of Accountants and is presently an active member of Sigma Kappa Sorority and HFMA.

Keri Whitehead
Director of Membership

Keri Whitehead is the System Director of Patient Financial Services for UC San Diego Health.  She has an extensive background in hospital revenue cycle leadership, including receiving the Leader of Excellence award during her tenure as Director of Patient Access for Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. 

Keri’s experience includes multi-dimensional leadership roles in hospital revenue cycle, to include Patient Access, Patient Financial Services, Denials Management, Charge Capture/Revenue Integrity, Case Management and Contracting.  She has a track record of phenomenal results related to process optimization, financial management, personnel management, staff mentoring and restructuring. She brings deep expertise in some of the leading healthcare information systems, including Epic.

Keri is passionate about optimizing the Patient Experience by achieving greater efficiency in care delivery and operations through visionary strategies and proven change methodologies. She is the Director of Membership for the HFMA San Diego Imperial Chapter.  Keri is a native of California, and she attended San Diego State University.

Alece Hon
Director of Certification

Alece Hon currently is the Director of Clinical Finance, in the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, at UC San Diego Health, providing leadership, day to day oversite, while meeting the needs of the physicians, professional billing group and health system. Alece has a diverse background since she supported her husband military career but has been in healthcare for the past 25 years. She is also a member of the Past President Alumni, of the San Diego Imperial County HFMA chapter.

Prior to UC San Diego Health, Alece worked for Scripps Health for over 11 year as a Sr. Clinical Analyst. While at Scripps Health, she supported Hospital Finance, Home Health and Hospice divisions.

Alece holds a Master of Business Administration (Healthcare Concentration), from Point Loma Nazarene. She also has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (emphases in Accounting) and is CHFP from the Health Care Management Association (HFMA).

Aurora Herrera
Awards, Founders

Aurora Herrera impressive career in healthcare administration spans over two decades. Currently serving as the Supervisor of the Revenue Cycle at Scripps Health, she oversees the daily operations of the Patient Access department, ensuring compliance, optimizing patient experiences, and driving process improvements. Her previous roles as a Public Resource Specialist and Financial Counselor have provided valuable insights into patient eligibility and financial assistance, positively impacting the lives of many patients.

Beyond her professional work, she is passionate about mentoring staff, effective resource management, and fostering a collaborative team environment. Her commitment to excellence, continuous learning, and operational efficiency has shaped her successful career.

Additionally, she finds fulfillment in community service. Volunteering allows her to support various community initiatives, reflecting her dedication to making a difference both within and outside the healthcare system.


The certification committee has one main focus – to get you certified. Our motto is “Just do it,” (take the test that is!)  Are you interested in becoming a certified member?  Check out the invaluable information on National’s website.

Chapter contact: John Garcia, FHFMA, San Diego Imperial Chapter’s Director of Certification

  • Fahd Benjalil, FHFMA
  • Jared Berkson, CHFP
  • Roger Blackwell, CHFP
  • Daniel Chambers, CHFP
  • David Chevallard, CHFP
  • Mendy-Sue L. Drew, FHFMA
  • Craig D. Du Fault, CHFP
  • John M. Garcia, FHFMA
  • Andrea C. Gonzalez, CHFP
  • Mary Grossman-Scudder, CHFP
  • Alec Hendry, CHFP
  • Reid Hollyfield, FHFMA
  • Alece L. Hon, FHFMA
  • Basak Kaya, FHFMA
  • Thomas S. Kumura, FHFMA
  • Jeffrey M. Lambert, FHFMA, CMA
  • C. Patrick Lash, FHFMA, CPA
  • Marianna Martinez, CRCR, CHFP
  • Terri L. Meier, CHFP, CRCR
  • Mayflor A Mejia-Obispo, CHFP
  • Maya Mohan, FHFMA
  • Urvashi Pathak, CHFP
  • Zachary Pecyna, CHFP
  • Beata Piehl, CHFP
  • Sean Putnam, CHFP
  • Judy A. Riesen, FHFMA
  • Christopher L Stallard, CHFP
  • Brett Steigerwald, CHFP
  • Leticia Stewart, CHFP
  • Lisa Marie Thakur, FHFMA, CPA
  • Andrew Toth, CHFP
  • Narciso Vazquez, CHFP, CRCR
  • Xiang Wu, CHFP
  • Alexander Zamora, CHFP
Chapter YearPresident
FY 24 [2023-2024] Perla Pace
FY 23 [2022-2023] Basak Kaya
FY 19 [2018-2019] Fahd Benjalil
FY 18 [2017-2019] Debbie Binczewski
FY 17 [2016-2017] Julie Haluska
FY 16 [2015-2016] Jennifer Hays
FY 15 [2014-2015] Shannon Vanderbilt
FY 14 [2013-2014] Pia Labos
FY 13 [2012-2013] Pia Labos
FY 12 [2011-2012]Deb Hagen
FY 11 [2010-2011] Margie Drobatschewsky
FY 10 [2009-2010] Denise Awrey
FY 09 [2008-2009] Alece Hon
FY 08 [2007-2008] Lisa Thakur
FY 07 [2006-2007]Melanie Van Winkle
FY 06 [2005-2006] Danette Roberts
FY 05 [2004-2005]Bob Hemker
FY 04 [2003-2004] Bridget Flannigan
FY 03 [2002-2003] Dave Epstein
FY 02 [2001-2002] Carol Clay
FY 01 [2000-2001]Reid Hollyfield
FY 00 [1999-2000]Jack Duffy
FY 99 [1998-1999]Kari Cornicelli

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Violeta Aguirre, 2024-25 President, HFMA San Diego & Imperial Chapter