Sheila Mellody, MD DABFM

Family Physician Values Patient Relationships

“By counseling patients on good nutrition, healthy choices, and preventative care, we can help them live their best lives.”

Inspired by her patients and driven by her passion for helping others, Dr. Sheila Mellody brings a caring and compassionate approach to primary care at Vanguard Medical Group’s Farmingdale office. It’s a dream role for this family physician who values the relationships that she has made over the years.

“I chose family medicine for the one-on-one continuity of care,” she said. “Getting to know my patients, seeing their kids grow, and helping them on a journey toward good health is truly gratifying.”

Dr. Mellody began her career in Denver, Colorado, in a women’s health practice, and brings that experience and special interest to Vanguard. She also spent time working in primary care in Virginia Beach. She returned to her home state of New Jersey to be close to family.

Patients say they like Dr. Mellody’s ability to explain things clearly. “I’m very thorough and very organized,” she said. “I make sure that my patients fully understand any diagnoses or treatments so that we are able to work together toward optimum health.” She also emphasizes the importance of preventative care and healthy lifestyle choices. “Regular screenings, good nutrition, and healthy choices really do make a difference,” she said. “I often tell my patients that good nutrition is the backbone of any treatment.”

When she’s not working, Dr. Mellody enjoys running, camping, cooking, and spending time with her husband and children.

Joseph W. Schauer, III, MD, DABFM

Family Physician Offers Personalized Healthcare

“Quality, cost-effective health care is a right, not a privilege.”

Whether he’s reassuring an anxious patient, offering clinical expertise on the latest treatment, or checking on a homebound senior, Dr. Joseph Schauer brings a warmth and compassion to primary care that come from over 35 years of learning and of advocating for his patients. He continues a legacy begun by his father and uncle, who paved the way for patient-centered care at the very same Farmingdale practice, once known as Schauer Family Medical Group.

Dr. Schauer’s own journey in medicine began in high school. He knew he wanted to help others, and he took a summer job as a hospital orderly, solidifying his career path. When it came time to choose a focus in medical school, he selected family medicine. “I liked the idea of taking care of generations of families,” he said, “and of treating the whole person—body, mind and soul. You can do that in primary care, whereas you cannot in subspecialties.”

He returned home to Monmouth County to practice family medicine with his father, Joseph Schauer Jr., MD and his uncle, Edward A. Schauer, MD. They have since retired, and Dr. Schauer remains at the helm, joining with like-minded independent physicians at Vanguard Medical Group.

“What distinguishes our practice is the personal touch, the willingness to sit down and explain things to our patients,” he said. “Our patients love that they can get that individualized attention along with high-tech diagnosis and treatment.”

Over the years, Dr. Schauer has received countless accolades from his patients. “The outcome is not always good, because people sometimes have diseases that unfortunately progress, but there is always an element of gratitude,” he noted. “We will receive notes from families saying thank you for taking care of Dad or Grandpa. Those are incredibly meaningful to us.”

Dr. Schauer’s influence reaches far beyond the Farmingdale location. He is a past president of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians. He chaired the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Primary Care Initiative, working with a major New Jersey healthcare insurer to develop and implement primary care initiatives built around the PCMH concept in New Jersey.

When he’s not working, Dr. Schauer enjoys traveling with his wife, gardening, golfing and pursuing that ever-elusive hole-in-one.

Jessica Timmerman, FNP, APN

Nurse Practitioner Advocates for Her Patients

“Mental health plays an important role in physical health, and both have to work together for optimum health.”

With a background in psychology and expertise honed by years of working in trauma, emergency medicine and the ICU, Jessica Timmerman is well prepared for the breadth and depth of family medicine. “I get to do all the things I’m good at and feel a calling to do,” she said, “and at the same time form meaningful relationships with my patients as we work together toward better health.”

As a nurse practitioner, Jessica can diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, and prescribe medications. She is wound care certified and has a special interest in mental health and addiction. With her appreciation for the sciences and the connection between physical and mental health, she treats the full range of ailments and conditions in a family practice setting.

“Patients like that I listen,” she said. “I’m very good at physical assessments. In my first six years in urgent care, we only had access to minimal diagnostics. I learned how to pay attention to every detail.”

Jessica follows the science but also values holistic care, counseling patients on lifestyle changes that support good health. She helps them take charge of their health through preventive care. Jessica advocates for her patients and connects them with community resources for additional support as needed, from fighting cancer to battling drug addiction. “There’s a great sense of community in our practice, built upon generations of families whom we have served,” she said.

When she’s not working, Jessica enjoys the great outdoors, fishing with her husband and son, and trail riding on four-wheelers. Having once considered a career as a veterinarian, Jessica is the proud owner of a rescue dog and two cats.

Vimala Patel, MSN, FNP

Family Nurse Practitioner Connects with Patients via Telemedicine

“Even minor illnesses or conditions can be a worry. I try to put my patients’ minds at ease by explaining exactly what is going on.”

As a member of Vanguard’s eCare team, Vimala Patel enjoys connecting with patients. This advanced practice registered nurse doesn’t mind the screen; it’s simply a portal into the lives of the people she meets. “I love the variety in family medicine and the opportunity to help my patients address acute and chronic conditions and enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “The virtual visit gives patients more flexibility and sometimes makes them more comfortable.”

Vimala began her career in an intensive care unit (ICU) in her home country of India. She came to the U.S. to complete her master’s in nursing, and then began work in the States in dialysis. As a nephrology nurse, she helped patients with renal failure as well as those with urinary issues, kidney stones, and other ailments.

She went on to work in asthma and allergy, motivated by an interest in that area. “I wanted to know as much as possible about allergies so that I could help people suffering from them,” she said. She continues to work per diem there, and in urgent care for continuing in-person clinical experience.

Vimala joined Vanguard to be on the cutting edge of telemedicine. As a member of the eCare Telemedicine team, she provides focused medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for patients remotely via a phone call or videoconference. “I try to explain in detail what is happening with their health and guide them toward next steps,” she said. “Once they understand, my patients often seem relieved. They are so thankful.”

When she’s not working, Vimala enjoys gardening. She also loves to travel with her husband and children.

Krystal A. Green, M.D.

“Good communication between a provider and a patient is the key to getting the best health outcomes.”

When Krystal Green became a primary care physician, she fulfilled a long-standing dream that began when she was just three years old. At the time, she was offering comfort to her mother on the stillbirth of Krystal’s younger brother. “I told her that I wanted to be a doctor so that people don’t lose their family members ever again.”

During the summer following college, she shadowed her childhood pediatrician, a female practitioner, who was among her mentors. She continued on to medical school, where she discovered family medicine during her rotations. “I originally was going to pursue OB/GYN,” said Krystal, “but I realized that in family medicine, I could do so much more, including pediatric and adults. It was the perfect specialty for me.”

She often goes above and beyond for her patients in an effort to listen and communicate, especially in the area of preventive care. “I let them lead the conversation and then offer medical and healthy lifestyle recommendations,” said Krystal. “I lay out the options, risks, and benefits and ask, ‘What do you think about this one or that one?’ They seem to really appreciate that.”

“The job is living up to my initial childhood dream,” she said. “There are days when I feel so fulfilled. I know that I’ve really made a difference.”

When she’s not working, Krystal enjoys reading, writing, and exploring new places with her husband and family.

Margaret A. Kelly, PA-C

Physician Assistant Prioritizes Patient Relationships in Family Medicine

“Taking the time to listen and creating a dialogue with my patients helps me deliver care that’s uniquely suited to their needs. ”

As the oldest of four, Margaret Kelly grew up caring for her siblings. That was the inspiration for a career of helping others and making a difference. Margaret chose the competitive dual-degree physician assistant program at Seton Hall University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in biology and a master’s degree as a physician assistant. Today, she’s putting those credentials to work at Vanguard.

“My patients have told me I’m a very good listener,” she said. “I also take the time to fully explain their treatment plans and the thought process behind them. My patients seem to truly appreciate that.”

At Vanguard, Margaret has had the chance to treat multiple generations of the same family. “One of my favorite aspects of family medicine is being able to see somebody’s kids and also their parents,” she said. “It means a lot when a patient recommends me to a family member. When you have that trust, it helps immensely with patients wanting to follow my recommendations. That makes a difference in the care that I’m able to provide.”

“Vanguard truly is just as its name implies — ahead of the curve,” she said. “Patients tell me all the time that they appreciate the patient-focused approach that we provide. I also appreciate the supportive team behind me that allows me to work independently but also to consult with them whenever needed.”

Originally from Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, Margaret is getting to know the Jersey shore and very much enjoying the beach in the summer. She also loves to ski in the winter. When she’s not working, she most enjoys spending time with friends and family.

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.

Jessica Wolkun, PA-C

Physician Assistant Enjoys Seeing Patients’ Progress Toward Good Health

“It’s the relationships that we form with our patients and the ability to help them live longer, healthier lives that motivate me every day.”

From a young age, Jessica Wolkun had thought about a career in healthcare. But it wasn’t until a trip to the emergency room that she found her true calling. “I took my friend to the ER, and that’s when I met a physician assistant for the first time,” she said. “I could clearly see myself in that role.”

Until then, she had been following a behavioral health track in college, with the goal of working with autistic children. She changed from psychology to biology, and soon found herself in the clinical setting. “The fit was perfect because I wanted to be part of a patient’s overall health rather than just the small part that is behavioral.”

Now she brings her hospital experience, including work in gastrointestinal disorders and infectious disease, to a primary care practice. She chose Vanguard because of its focus on wellness and its genuine care and concern for its patients. Being a physician assistant at Vanguard is everything she envisioned. “I love medicine, and I enjoyed working in a hospital, but now I have the opportunity to get to know my patients and follow their health for the long term.

“My patients like that I’m thorough and that I listen to them,” she said. “I help them stay on top of their health, and I sometimes gently push a little to ensure that they get the test that they need or make the lifestyle change that will make the difference.” Jessica notes that sometimes patients put off a necessary test because of fear. “We can address the fear and help patients feel more comfortable,” she said. “That’s much easier than addressing what could happen if the test is not done.”

Being able to follow her patients’ progress is a great reward of the job, according to Jessica. “If I can help them lose weight, lower their blood pressure, and get off medication, for example, then I’ve helped them toward a longer, healthier life.”

When she’s not working, Jessica enjoys gardening, decorating her home, and taking hikes and walks on the weekends.

Palwasha Fazli Daftani, MD

Dr. Daftani Takes a Whole-Patient, Preventive Approach to Primary Care

“As a family physician, I want to educate my patients, to help them improve their health and quality of life.”

Dr. Palwasha Daftani always had a love for art as a child, and imagined herself going into fashion design. She declined a spot at a prestigious fashion design high school in the city to attend high school in Queens. That pivotal move put her on a much different trajectory, one that included a medical education program in her senior year of high school. It was there that she discovered her talent for math and science, and her excitement about a career in medicine. She views medicine as a scientific study and its practice as a form of art.

“We got to explore different health professions, and we took trips to local colleges and once to a research lab,” she said. “They taught us scientific techniques and offered fun opportunities to explore and learn about health care careers and how to prepare an educational path to pursue them.I hadn’t had any female role models growing up who were physicians and so I never thought about it. But once I learned more, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I could already imagine myself doing it.”

She got a jump on college classes during her senior year of high school, and went on to earn her biology degree, a medical degree, and a master’s degree in health services administration. She chose family medicine as her specialty because of its comprehensive focus and opportunity for continuity of care.

“In family medicine, we take on a role not just of examining the disease of a patient, but we also explore his or her social and emotional factors,” she said. “It’s a biopsychosocial approach to medicine, and it’s very important in treating patients as a whole.” Dr. Daftani prides herself on being a good listener. “I let my patients talk,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. It also helps to make a better diagnosis when you listen to the full details of their stories.”

The whole-patient focus was one of the aspects that attracted Dr. Daftani to Vanguard Medical Group. “Everyone here works as an advocate for the patient,” she said. “There is also an emphasis on preventive care, which is so important in overall health.”

When she’s not working, Dr. Daftani enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children. She is an avid reader and also enjoys exercising and traveling.

Simone A. Dougé, MD

Treating the Whole Patient in Family Medicine

“The best doctors go beyond the physical ailments in front of them and get to know the whole patient, where they come from, and what’s important to them.”

Dr. Simone Dougé witnessed the power of a caring physician when she was just a child. At the time, her grandfather was dying from cancer. “I remember vividly the respect that my family had for his doctors,” she said, “and the comfort that they provided him at the time.” It was that early formative experience that inspired her career as a primary care physician.

While she was completing her residency in family medicine, she observed the same caring approach that she remembered. “These were doctors who were treating the whole patient, not just going by the lab numbers,” she said. “They took the time to really listen, to find out who the patient was and what was important to him or her, in addition to treating the patient medically. It made for better quality of life.”

Dr. Dougé completed a residency in primary care and a fellowship in palliative medicine. She brings both areas of specialty to Vanguard, where she treats patients from infants to the elderly.

She prides herself on taking a personalized approach to patient care. Her patients tell her that she’s thorough and really listens. She also takes the time to follow up with a phone call when appropriate. “Over the years, I observed family members who didn’t understand what the doctor prescribed or didn’t get their questions answered,” she said. “That’s why I try my best to give thorough explanations. I want to make sure my patients leave the office feeling empowered and ‘heard.’”

When she’s not working, Dr. Dougé enjoys cooking, baking and exercising, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT). On her “bucket list” is a trip abroad for a medical mission.