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.

Kristina Conklin, PA-C

Kristina Conklin Builds Relationships for Better Health

“Preventive care is the cornerstone of primary care. As providers, the greatest role that we have is to educate our patients and promote wellness.”

 Kristina Conklin’s first job after college wasn’t the perfect fit. But it was the inspiration for her lifelong calling. “I was working as a medical technologist behind the scenes in a hospital, and I missed the patient interaction,” she says. “I started volunteering on a different floor to be able to talk with patients and realized that’s what I wanted to do.” She applied to a physician assistant program and now enjoys forming those special relationships every day.

From the beginning, Kristina knew she wanted to work in primary care. “I enjoy getting to know my patients, learning about their family life and their challenges, and educating them about wellness. When you build relationships over time, you can provide continuous, comprehensive care. That’s what really draws me in—being able to make a real difference in their health and well-being.”

Kristin inspires confidence with her thorough approach. She takes the time to really listen to her patients and understand their perspective. The dialogue goes both ways; Kristin also spends time explaining her recommendations and educating patients about their illness and preventive care. “I encourage my patients to keep up on their immunizations and exams,” she says. “An asymptomatic patient who might show early warning signs of a disease is a lot easier to effectively treat than someone who is chronically ill.”

When she’s not working, Kristina enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys reading, traveling, and playing volleyball.

Van Wyck, Kelly, DNP

Kelly Van Wyck Invests Time in Her Patients’ Well-being

“When we encourage ourselves to pursue wellness instead of only responding to illness, we lead healthier, more peaceful, more fulfilling lives.”

It was an experience volunteering in Haiti that revealed Kelly’s true calling. “I was working as a teacher in the village school,” she says. “People assumed that, as an American, I had access to healthcare and they started bringing me their sick children. I had no training and couldn’t help. One evening, a friend showed up on our doorstep with his infant son, near death. My mother, a nurse, happened to be visiting. She intervened, and saved the baby’s life.” Inspired and determined, Kelly enrolled in a nursing program as soon as she returned home.

Kelly has since made annual trips to Haiti, where she has served as a nurse and translator with teams of medical, dental, and nursing personnel. “I’m inspired by the Haitian people and their incredible bravery despite difficult circumstances. It recalibrates me every time I go down there.”

Back in New Jersey, she worked for several years as an emergency room nurse; however, she quickly realized that she wanted to further her education. She earned her doctorate in 2017, and joined Vanguard shortly thereafter.

“I hope to inspire my patients to pursue wellness in body and mind,” she says. “I find that people often visit their healthcare provider reactively, because of illness. If I can help people to be proactive, and to pursue a healthier lifestyle, they may discover a more peaceful, more joyful, and ultimately more fulfilling life.”

When she’s not working, Kelly enjoys reading and spending time with her husband and two young children. She also enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling.

Howard Wilson, MD

Personal, Individualized Care Is Dr. Wilson’s Hallmark

“My patients can talk to me about anything—even things that they can’t talk to their spouse or family about.”

It’s not uncommon for Dr. Wilson to treat three generations in the same family. As a family medicine physician, he offers primary care for all ages. Importantly, he works hard to earn his patients’ trust, and as a result, they often refer their family members—grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

“When you’re treating generations of the same family, it’s not just taking a family history,” said Dr. Wilson. “You know the medical issues firsthand, and can focus on the right preventive measures.”

A lifelong learner, Dr. Wilson brings a diverse background to his practice—including degrees in philosophy and biochemistry. His father was a veterinarian, and ultimately inspired Dr. Wilson to pursue a medical degree. Applying to medical school during the mandatory draft for the Vietnam War, he faced unusually high competition for slots—and ultimately decided to study overseas. The experience bolstered his Spanish and French language skills, and gave him a global view on medicine. Internships and residencies back in the States provided the U.S. perspective.

After years of building a successful solo practice, Dr. Wilson joined Vanguard Medical Group. “I want to be able to spend time with my patients,” he said. “With Vanguard, I’ll have the infrastructure in place to handle the administrative tasks so that I can focus on patient care. My patients will also enjoy the services that Vanguard provides, such as an on-site lab for bloodwork.”

Dr. Wilson is known for his personalized approach to patient care and also his focus on preventive care. “I do a lot with integrative medicine, including nutrition and lifestyle counseling,” he said. “I also work with information technology in medicine. It’s a great interest of mine, and a focus at Vanguard.”

When he’s not working, Dr. Wilson enjoys traveling, reading, and music.

Dr. Elaine Douglas, MD (Retired)

Dr. Douglas Continues a Family Legacy in Primary Care

“When I see patients or their family members years later, and they tell me how I made a difference, it makes it all worthwhile.”

From pediatrics to geriatrics, and everything in between, Dr. Elaine Douglas has done it all. As a solo practitioner for many years before joining Vanguard, she handled all aspects of family medicine—following in the groundbreaking footsteps of her very talented father.

Dr. Fred Douglas, MD, was a charter fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the first African American to become a full attending physician at Mountainside Hospital, now Mountainside Medical Center. Elaine’s mother, Daisy Douglas, was one of the first black teachers hired at Montclair Public Schools, and inspired Elaine’s first career. Elaine earned a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in education.

“In 1978, I was visiting my father in the hospital with a childhood friend after my father’s cardiac bypass surgery,” Elaine said. “My friend asked Dad if he was ready to retire. The way he spoke about medicine, with that twinkle in his eye, showed that he truly loved it. That’s when I decided to go back to school, because I knew I would love it, too.”

Elaine was able to complete her training in time to work alongside her father for several years before he retired. She continued in a solo practice before joining Vanguard. She was ready to share the administrative responsibilities of her practice so that she could spend more time with her patients.

“We share the same philosophy of patient care,” she said, speaking of the move to Vanguard. “We are family doctors who are empathetic, knowledgeable, and available. My patients have my full attention; they’re not rushed. It’s a very personalized approach. I get to know them so that I can provide the best possible care. Patients get called back in a timely manner so they can get their questions answered, and take action if needed.”

Dr. Elaine Douglas couldn’t be happier practicing medicine. She works with both adults and adolescents. “I really love what I do,” she said. “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still come to work, because I enjoy it that much.”

When she’s not working, Dr. Douglas enjoys spending time with family and going to the gym. Once she is relieved of the administrative hassles of medicine, she looks forward to playing the flute again, reading for pleasure, and doing needlepoint. She also is going to become more involved with the Howard University Alumni Club of New Jersey’s Fred and Daisy Douglas Scholarship Fund, named in her parents’ memory.

Sung Tae Kim, MD

Dr. Sung Tae Kim Values Time with Patients

“A lot of times, patients can have anxiety when meeting a new provider. I try to make it easier by getting to know them. I give them the opportunity to talk, and I listen. Then, I can truly understand their concerns, and provide the comprehensive care that will keep them healthy.”

Dr. Kim is motivated by many things, but one in particular surfaces often in conversation—and that’s service to others. It’s why he’s made it a point to join medical missions traveling to some of the world’s underserved areas, from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Tecate, Mexico; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Penang, Malaysia. He found that medicine provides him with the chance to make a real difference. “To be in a place where you can help others is a tremendous blessing,” he says.

He chose family medicine because he wanted to be involved in community care. At the heart of his practice are his patient relationships. Dr. Kim places tremendous value on building on those relationships and truly understanding his patients physically, psychologically and socially. “I value the time that I spend with my patients,” he says. “They can talk about private matters that they may not even discuss with their spouses. When you have that deep understanding, it makes a difference in the care that you can provide.”

Dr. Kim works with his patients for a mutual understanding of what’s important to do to maintain good health. “I can’t expect patients to change 10 different things in one visit, but I can start them in the right direction for preventive care,” he says.

He chose Vanguard Medical Group because of its patient-first, personalized approach that mirrored his own approach to healthcare. “Vanguard Medical Group provides a platform where I’m able to use up-to-date medical knowledge and today’s technology in caring for patients. Importantly, the process is dynamic, and can conform to patients’ needs. The patient always comes first.”

When he’s not working, Dr. Kim enjoys traveling, hiking, playing golf and spending time with family. From time to time, he also assists his father with the family’s agricultural business.

Alan Furst, MD

From Urgent Care to Primary Care: Dr. Alan Furst Puts Patients First 

My goal is to have every patient who walks out of my office feel a little bit better about at least one thing.”

Before urgent care was a reality, Dr. Alan Furst envisioned it. As the director of an emergency room physician group, Dr. Furst knew that a walk-in clinic that was open after office hours would be an attractive alternative to a hospital ER. He took that concept and opened the very first urgent care clinic in a rural area of New Jersey.

It took some time to build a following, but eventually the center was so successful that Dr. Furst and a partner opened two others. The early urgent cares operated differently than the clinics do today, establishing relationships with companies to perform corporate physicals and drug screenings as well as handling urgent care needs.

Over the years, urgent care transitioned into primary care for Dr. Furst, who enjoys the provider-patient relationships and the variety in family medicine. “I saw the advantages of working with a first-class primary care group run by physicians,” he said of his move to Vanguard.

“I have a very loyal patient base of people who have followed me from place to place, from Chester to Parsippany to Denville,” he said, crediting this to his unique approach. “I have a pretty informal style with my patients. I’m very open. We talk person to person, not doctor to patient. I’m just as interested in where they’re going on their next vacation as in their medical needs.” But his focus is to keep them healthy. “I’d rather encourage my patient to make a lifestyle change that will prevent plaque from building up in his or her arteries than treat buildup with medication or surgery.”

When he’s not working, Dr. Furst enjoys racing and breeding thoroughbred racehorses. He served as president of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, helping to find homes and alternate careers for retired racehorses. He also likes to remain active, skiing, golfing, playing softball and doing his own landscaping. In addition, he is a self-professed dog lover, and once considered becoming a veterinarian.

He lives with his wife, Amy, and dog, Lydia, in Morris County, and is most proud of his daughter, Morgan, and son-in-law, Dan, who live and work in San Francisco.