About U.S. Physiatry

US Physiatry (USP) was founded in 2011 as it became evident that another round of Healthcare reform was imminent. Founded by rehabilitation leaders from all aspects of the rehab continuum, USP decided to focus on rehabilitation in all of the current settings so that both the rehab patient and the physiatrist will be well represented when changes are implemented.

USP’s goals are to insure the success of the physiatrist by providing the resources of a national company to help negotiate managed care contracts, ACO affiliations, implement an IT strategy that will allow us to focus on quality outcomes and insure that the revenue cycle is the best possible for a physiatrist. USP believes that empowering the rehab physician to follow a patient throughout the rehab continuum will allow for the best possible outcomes for patients and the best way for our physician partners to maximize their income opportunities.

USP is a physician lead group of physiatrists. Our leadership is made up entirely of physicians who are currently practicing rehabilitation medicine.


Founder & Chairman of the Board

Mike de Cardenas, M.D., Chairman and Founder, completed his training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas in 1983. He then completed a fellowship in Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Baylor in 1984. In his 25 years of experience as a Physiatrist, he has helped build many rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient therapy centers, and skilled nursing facilities. He serves as Corporate Medical Director for Preferred Care, an operator of over 110 skilled nursing facilities, for the past 20 years, where he has focused on building high quality rehabilitation programs for the post-acute setting. He has previously served as Medical Director for Continental Medical Systems, HealthSouth, Select Medical Corporation and Rehab Care. He has also served as an Advisor in the development of rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient centers in Spain, Mexico and Central and South America. He is also a partner of Reliant Pro Rehabilitation, a physical therapy and rehabilitation organization.




Jose L. Vargas, M.D. serves as CEO of U.S. Physiatry.  He is a board certified physiatrist and internist. He completed his training in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in Atlanta, Georgia at Emory
University in 2004. Prior to that, he had completed a residency in Internal Medicine in New York City at Cabrini Medical Center where he also served as the Chief Resident. He has served on the Medical Advisory Boards of RehabCare in St. Louis, Missouri and Preferred Care of Plano, Texas. Dr. Vargas is currently the Medical Director of West Gables Rehabilitation Hospital in Miami, Florida where he has served in that capacity since 2005. Dr. Vargas has focused his practice on inpatient rehabilitation and post-acute rehabilitation in skilled nursing facilities.


Michael F. Lupinacci, M.D., is board certified in physiatry and pain management, and is the Chief Medical Officer of U.S. Physiatry. Dr. Lupinacci received his undergraduate degree Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University where he also received his medical degree. He did his residency training at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston where he served as Chief Resident. He is currently the Medical Director of HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania where he has been in private group practice since 1990. In this capacity, he has received several clinical excellence awards including Medical Director of the Year. Dr. Lupinacci served as Captain in Air Force Special Operations and received the Air Force Commendation Medal. He has had several major leadership roles in the American of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation culminating in his service as President of the Academy. Dr. Lupinacci currently serves an advisory role on several Academy committees and participates in resident, medical student and practicing physiatry’s clinical education providing national, international, and regional lectureships and invited publications. He has experience in Congressional testimony and presentations to Medicare and has a particular interest in the development of Post- Acute rehabilitation healthcare delivery systems.


Charlotte H. Smith, M.D., a board certified physiatrist, serves as Chief Clinical Officer of U.S. Physiatry. In that capacity, she has overall responsibility for clinical protocol development and physician training. She has been the Medical Director of Transitions for Kindred Seattle Integrated Market in Seattle, developing a continuum of care with 6 Kindred post-acute facilities and 3 healthcare networks. An Austin native, Dr. Smith received her medical school and residency training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and returned to Austin to begin her private practice in 1990, working with several healthcare networks in leadership roles. She enjoys program development and teambuilding, with a particular interest in transitions of care in the post-acute setting. She has been involved in teaching and research in conjunction with the University of Texas Southwestern and the University of Texas Medical Branch Austin, serving as Chair and assisting in creating a PMR residency program and new medical school.  Upon relocation to Seattle, she joined the University of Washington faculty, serving as the medical director of the UWMC inpatient rehabilitation program. Dr. Smith has served in numerous leadership roles with the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association Governing Council for Rehabilitation and Post-acute Care. She has received awards for clinical excellence and lectures frequently about various rehabilitation topics, sports medicine, practice management, workers compensation, ethics and other issues.


Sam Ghaffari, DO is board certified in Physiatry and has served as the Atlanta Region Medical Director since 2011.  As one of the longest tenured physicians in US Physiatry, he has been able to cultivate a diverse physiatry practice.  He has established a well networked outpatient clinic in a suburb east of Atlanta since 2008, focusing on neurorehab, spasticity, EMG, and pain management.  He serves as Medical Director of the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center at Dekalb Medical Center in Decatur, GA since 2012. Dr. Ghaffari is an active attending, consultant, and previous Medical Director of New London Healthcare, a skilled nursing facility in Snellville, GA.  He serves as Medical Director of Gentiva Home Health, an affiliate of Kindred Home, Gwinnett County Branch since 2010.  He is also a consulting physicians for two Atlanta area Long Term Acute Care Hospitals (LTAC).  Since 2008 Dr Ghaffari is Clinical Faculty for geriatrics and physiatry clerkship for 3rd and 4th year medical students from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Georgia Campus.  Dr Ghaffari received a wrestling scholarship to attend Division I Cleveland State University where he received his undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, and then received his Doctor of Osteopathy from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.  He completed his residency training at Emory University and Shepherd Center in 2008.  Dr Ghaffari lectures nationally on spasticity, neurorehab and physiatry care in post-acute settings.


Ralph Wang, MD, serves as the Illinois Region Medical Director for US Physiatry.  He is also the Rehabilitation Medical Director for Wyncape Health and Rehabilitation, a subacute and long term care facility in suburban Chicago.  Prior to his current position, he was an Attending Physician at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and faculty member with Northwestern University.  Dr. Wang completed his residency at the Baylor College of Medicine and TIRR Memorial Hermann.  He graduated medical school from Northwestern University and is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  He lectures nationally on the medical and rehabilitative aspects of the subacute level of care and is published internationally. 


Richard Kovan, MD, After completing his undergraduate education from Michigan State University with a B.S. Physiology in 1984, Dr. Kovan attended medical school at Wayne State University in Detroit, graduating with his M.D. degree in 1988. He completed residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Medical College of Ohio, in Toledo in 1992, including Chief Resident.

After practicing Locum Tenens in Portland, ME, Cincinnati, OH, Fresno, CA and Boston, MA, he moved back to his native state of Michigan in 1993 and was a partner with Medical Rehabilitation Group, PC until 2013. While in Michigan, he managed patients in several settings including the acute hospital, inpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing facilities as well as outpatient management of acute and chronic musculoskeletal and nonoperative spinal disorders. His interests also include electrodiagnostic (EMG) testing.

He relocated to Phoenix, AZ in 2013 to become a regional medical director for US Physiatry. He currently practices at Honor Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale, AZ and several skilled nursing
facilities throughout the Valley. Clinical interests continue to include acute inpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing facilities, musculoskeletal and nonoperative spinal disorders and electrodiagnostic medicine (EMG).

Dr Kovan is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Electrodiagnostic Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine.


Diana Harper MD, board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, serves as the Regional Medical Director for US Physiatry – Post Acute Physicians of North Carolina. She currently is the Rehabilitation physician and consultant at several Sub-acute facilities in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.

Dr Harper is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, attended Wofford College where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Dr. Harper then attended the Medical University of South Carolina, graduating in 1993 before spending three years on active duty proudly serving as a physician in the United States Air Force. Afterwards, she began her speciality training in Physical Medicine and Rehab in the residency program at East Carolina University where she was honored to be selected Chief Resident.

She has a wide scope of experience in the area of Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab as well Electrodiagnostic medicine. Dr. Harper is Board Certified in the area of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and is a member of the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Clinical interests include Geriatrics, Neuromuscular, SCI, Musculoskeletal and Cancer Rehab among others. She takes great joy in caring for her patients and their families believing communication, cooperation and teamwork are keys to recovery.



Advancing the Rehab Continuum