Colleen Little, DO

Art and Science Combine for This Family Medicine Physician

“I give my patients detailed options for their health, and then empower them to take the lead.”

As a family physician and an artist, Dr. Colleen Little brings more than the usual range of talent to primary care medicine. Initially on the track for a career in art therapy, Colleen was drawn to family medicine while working in healthcare administration. In taking care of credentialing for doctors, she realized that primary care was a path she’d like to follow. Now her years of art training bring a detailed eye to dermatology procedures, and her studies in psychology bring additional insight into her patients’ perspective.

Colleen’s interest in dermatology is more than artistic. A bout of melanoma as a teenager made her passionate about educating others on prevention and early detection. She worked for the Colorado Melanoma Foundation and also did academic research for a pigmentation genetics project. She completed her dermatology fellowship to bring this additional expertise to her work in family medicine.

She also is working toward a certification in integrative medicine, which blends physical, mental and social well-being with conventional medical treatment. In integrative medicine, patients and practitioners are partners in the healing process.

“I take a holistic approach to health,” said Colleen. “I like to offer all of the options to patients and discuss them in detail. Patients tell me that I explain things very well, in a way they can understand, and that I empower them to take the lead with their health.

“If someone has diabetes, and they’re diagnosed for the first time, I’ll give them a chance to try lifestyle changes before we start medication. I’ll do the same thing for patients with high cholesterol before I prescribe a statin. There are so many gray areas in medicine, where lifestyle changes could be just as beneficial as pharmacologic treatment.”

When she’s not working, Colleen enjoys art, including pottery and watercolors. (See a sample of her artwork in this bio.) She also likes to hike and bike with her boyfriend, and enjoys baking.

Denise L. McClellan, RN, MSN, EdM, FPMHNP-BC

Advance Practice Nurse Addresses Mental Health in the Primary Care Setting 

“It is important that patients feel comfortable talking with me and that they know they are not being judged.”

After years in the field of social work, Denise McClellan wanted to do more to help others. So she went back to school for graduate work in psychology. That’s when she realized the benefit of additional nursing training and added a master’s degree in nursing science. “I wanted to be able to offer holistic care, including prescribing medication when needed, along with providing psychotherapy and other supportive services,” says Denise.

Now, as a psychiatric advanced practice nurse, Denise has a comprehensive understanding of a patient’s biological and behavioral needs. “I evaluate and treat patients from the perspective of multiple domains, from their biological and mental health to their social and emotional needs,” she says.

Denise works with adult patients at Vanguard and typically treats behavioral health issues such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, grief and loss, substance abuse challenges, and sleep disturbances. From her previous experience working with members of the military, Denise has experience treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and individuals who struggle with psychiatric symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury. With her social work background, she provides counseling on a variety of issues, from stress management and coping with change and loss to relationship challenges, family dynamics, and personal and professional transformation.

Denise encourages patients to be active participants in their care, adding, “I feel it is important for patients to take ownership of their treatment and understand the goals and reasons behind it.”

Denise chose to work at Vanguard because of its primary care focus on behavioral health. “I was intrigued with addressing behavioral health in the primary care setting,” she says. “What I’ve found is that by offering behavioral health as part of family medicine, treatment becomes more acceptable, convenient, and accessible, and for most patients it’s also more affordable than in a private psychiatric practice setting.”

When she’s not working, Denise enjoys hiking, traveling, art, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Peter Heit, MD

Gastroenterology Specialist Peter Heit Gets to the ‘Gut’ of the Problem

“I take an old-fashioned approach to clinical exams. We talk first in my office, and again afterward. It’s a more comfortable encounter and you learn so much more.”

From an early age, Peter Heit knew his future career. In fact, at his sixth-grade graduation, he wrote down that he was going to be a doctor. “Back then, there were not too many outlets for kids who liked the sciences,” he says. “It was research or medicine, and I knew that I wanted to take care of people.”

He received a full scholarship to attend Boston University and got accepted into medical school during his sophomore year. That allowed him to take graduate and undergraduate courses concurrently, and fit in some medical research. He ruled out the other specialties and chose gastroenterology/hepatology because the specialty featured interesting procedures and had the potential to build longstanding patient relationships.

The relationships are especially important to him. “Every visit starts with a conversation in my office,” he says. “I want to make it as comfortable as possible, to allay any concerns and to find out how I can help.” Then he examines the patient in the exam room.  Finally, they meet back in the office to discuss the findings and put together a plan. “Sometimes, we focus on self-management; other times we  recommend procedures or medication. Importantly, this is a plan that evolves over time as part of continuity of care.”

Preventive care, including colonoscopy screening, is a large part of his focus. “I help my patients get past the stigma and embarrassment of this test, and understand how powerful a colonoscopy is in helping them live longer, healthier lives.” In addition, Peter treats the full spectrum of gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, abdominal pains, reflux, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and stress-related gastroenterological issues. “The enteric nervous system is second only to the brain in complexity,” he says, “and so there are quite a number of potential gastrointestinal issues.”

When he’s not working, he enjoys going to the theater with his wife. He also is a skilled clock maker and has made over 100 clocks.

Salerno, Adrienne, MD

Surgery and Women’s Health Are Focuses for Dr. Adrienne Salerno

“Family medicine is about making a difference in people’s lives every single day.”

Dr. Adrienne Salerno has always wanted to be a doctor. “I can’t remember a time when I wanted to be anything else,” she says. “I enjoy helping people.”

She started out her career in surgery, but found that she wanted more of a continuous, long-term relationship with her patients. Family medicine provided that connection. At Vanguard, Dr. Salerno enjoys the diversity of being able to treat everyone, from newborns to geriatrics. Often, her patients include various members of the same family.

“When I’m able to treat the whole family, it gives me the full perspective of understanding for the patients,” she says. “It’s easier to see the bigger picture, and that helps me make better decisions.” Toward that end, Dr. Salerno also makes it a point to follow her patients from office visits to hospitals or rehab, as needed. “You can see the difference in care delivered by someone who doesn’t know the patient as well,” she says. “It allows us to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks with these transitions.”

Dr. Salerno also uses her surgical background when minor cosmetic dermatologic procedures are needed, from cyst removal and abscess drainage to complex laceration repair. “I also perform ear lobe laceration repair,” she notes. “That’s pretty unique for most primary care offices, but we’re able to offer it right in the office.”

Dr. Salerno is on the Women’s Health Committee at Vanguard, to help improve services for female patients. These may include IUD placements, options for birth control and other procedures. The goal is also to expand education on women’s health topics.

When not working, Dr. Salerno enjoys doing CrossFit. She also likes to cook and spend time with her husband and children.

Carrazzone, Peter, MD

Dr. Peter Carrazzone Blends Data with Experience for Diagnosis and Treatment

“Evidence-based medicine – the conscientious use of clinical information to direct a plan of care – makes a difference in helping a patient achieve longevity and quality of life.”

When Dr. Peter Carrazzone injured his eye in the fifth grade, he discovered his future career. “I was hospitalized, and the doctor who treated me – the ophthalmologist – really inspired me. I knew then that I was going to be a doctor.” He chose family medicine because he enjoyed most every medical rotation. “Family medicine gave me the most robust ability to see everything.”

A large focus of his practice is preventive care. “We strongly monitor our patients to identify problems,” he says. “We offer annual physicals and important screening tests. We talk to them about diet and exercise. If they’re doing something harmful, such as smoking, we want to motivate them to change behaviors so they have a greater chance of a healthier and longer life.”

Wellness is a term that is used a lot, according to Dr. Carrazzone. He cautions patients to be aware of so-called lifeline screenings. “Sometimes, companies offer screenings that don’t give you any information that pertains to your health. That’s why we practice evidence-based medicine. We do screenings that either rule out a potential problem or result in a need for monitoring or treatment.”

He treats babies to seniors, and enjoys getting to know the families at Vanguard. “Knowing the family history and dynamics plays a large role in being a good diagnostician,” he says. “It provides that additional information that is helpful in treating the whole patient.” Importantly, he takes the time to listen, and he sees the patient throughout the whole medical experience, from office to hospital. “Every morning, I do rounds at three hospitals,” he says. “It’s part of our continuity of care.”

When he’s not working, Dr. Carrazzone enjoys hiking, kayaking and spending time with family, including his six children. Visit Dr. Carrazzone’s leadership biography to learn more about his responsibilities as a part of Vanguard’s Executive Team. 

Bottiglierie, Christina, PA-C

Christina Bottiglierie Advocates for Her Patients

“When patients are educated about their health, it becomes a two-way street where they are actively involved in the decision process. The result is better care.”

Christina Bottiglierie has the distinct memory of folding laundry with her father and telling him of her future career choice. “I want to go into medicine,” 5-year-old Christina said. But it wasn’t until college that she found the perfect fit, becoming a physician assistant.

Now she’s not only a seasoned physician assistant at Vanguard but also a role model for future PAs. Students from the Robert Wood Johnson Rutgers program in Piscataway and Kean University train under her as part of their course work. She also precepts “pre-PAs” – students in high school and college who are considering physician assistance as a future career.

Christina enjoys the variety in a family medicine practice, from pediatrics to women’s health to chronic care and more. She prides herself on being an advocate as well as an educator for her patients. “When I work with children who have special needs, I’ll counsel the parent on how to approach the school district, the questions to ask and what the school should provide,” she says. “When my patients are employees of the state or county, I educate them about the NJWELL program, where they can get money back for getting physicals. Certain insurances will give you free bike helmets for kids. I spend the time and talk to my patients, and make sure that they understand how they can play a role in their health.”

She’s also a certified Department of Transportation medical examiner, one of the few in New Jersey. This allows her to conduct the detailed physicals required for bus and truck drivers with commercial drivers’ licenses.

When she’s not working, Christina is involved in running groups and does Spartan races with her kids. “You have time for what you want to make time for,” she says. “That’s what I always tell my patients.”

Becker, Julie, PA-C

Julie Becker Makes a Difference in Patients’ Lives 

“Encouraging patients to keep abreast of their health care plan is a crucial part of preventive family medicine today.”

Julie Becker’s desire to have a career in health care was influenced by her grandmother, who was a dentist as well as a mentor whom she shadowed while she was in college. “For me, I had positive role models who were in medical professions, and it was during high school that I decided to pursue a career in health care,” says Julie. “When I was in school, a physician assistant was a new medical career option, but I liked the idea that it would offer me the opportunity to examine, diagnose and treat patients under the guidance of a medical doctor.”

As a physician assistant, Julie is passionate about preventive and wellness care. “Prevention is the key to health care today,” she says. “During every visit, after reviewing my patients’ charts, I encourage and remind them to keep on top of immunizations, screenings and annual physicals, including PAPs, mammograms, colonoscopies and other screenings, so that a baseline can be recorded. If an abnormality is indicated, it can be caught and treated early.”

Julie speaks fluent Russian and Hebrew. According to her, “Once in a while, I have an opportunity to speak with patients in their native language. This came in handy for me with one of my patients who was a centenarian and was a little confused about diabetes. Being able to explain her condition in her native language put her at ease.”

As a physician assistant, Julie provides a variety of services to patients, including annual physicals, wellness checkups, diagnoses, medication management, blood pressure screenings, inoculations and vaccinations.  

As the mother of four, Julie’s schedule is jam-packed keeping up with her children and their activities, but they also find time to enjoy Broadway shows and traveling.