Wistreich, Sarah, DO

Dr. Sarah Wistreich Asks the Pivotal Questions to Help Patients on Their Journey to Health

“When you have a personal relationship with your patient, you are most able to give that patient effective preventive care.”

Dr. Sarah Wistreich was just 12 years old when she realized her life’s calling to become a doctor. She was inspired by the medical team that saved the life of her younger brother. “Watching the physicians who took care of him as a team really stood out to me,” she says. “It had a big impact on my personal decision.”

She chose family care so that she could treat the full range of ailments. She also enjoys a focus on women’s health. In both cases, Dr. Wistreich works to form meaningful relationships with her patients. “Continuity of care is so important,” she says. “When you know the person, you’re able to meet his or her needs more completely.”

Importantly, Dr. Wistreich asks the pivotal questions. “Are you up to date on your PAP smear? What are you using for birth control? Let’s talk about your weight. What’s going on at home? What is your stress level like?” She emphasizes preventive care, saying to patients, “Let’s talk about taking care of you when you’re well.” Patients enjoy the fact that Dr. Wistreich takes the time to actively listen and understand their concerns. Many women tell her that they enjoy seeing a female physician who can provide PAP smears, breast exams, birth control management, endometrial biopsies and other women’s health services.

Dr. Wistreich chose Vanguard because of its unique approach. “I like that Vanguard really puts the patient first,” she says. “It’s rare that you have a physician group that is owned by its own physicians and not a hospital or network. It’s still a business, but it’s one where the physicians care for the patients first and foremost.”

When she’s not working, Dr. Wistreich enjoys cooking nutritious meals. “Nutrition has become a passion of mine, not only with my patients, but with my family.”

Stern, Alyse, PA-C

Alyse Stern Believes Treating Entire Families Helps Treat Each Individual

“Treating entire families is a special opportunity where you see the whole rather than only part of the picture.”

Alyse Stern started her career in a genetic testing lab, but was not totally fulfilled. “Although the experience was invaluable, I recognized early on that I needed to connect with people, and family medicine would allow me to work directly with patients,” says Alyse. “I wanted to care for whole families. I recognized that individual family members could provide insight and history that would greatly enhance patient and health care provider relationships, and result in improved quality care.”

For over a decade, Alyse has been enjoying the continuity of care and trust that develops between individuals and family members, and their health care providers. She finds it rewarding when her patients refer friends and other family members. “My patients inspire me every day, and for me it’s the icing on the cake when someone comes into the office and asks for me,” she says.

Alyse joined Vanguard in 2004 as a physician assistant and, under the guidance of a medical doctor, provides a variety of services to patients, including annual physicals, wellness checkups, diagnoses, medication management, blood pressure screenings, inoculations and vaccinations.

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 off the clock, Alyse is a busy mom who enjoys cooking, baking and spending time with family and friends.

Smith, Stephanie, MD

Patients Inspire Dr. Smith Every Day

“The best care evolves from trusting relationships built over time.”

Dr. Stephanie Smith chose family medicine because it was “the package deal,” where she had the chance to do it all. “In medical school, we have the opportunity to rotate through each specialty area to see which we like best,” she explains. “I enjoyed every aspect of every rotation, from pediatrics to surgery to OB/GYN.”

Now at Vanguard, she’s developing the trusting relationships with her patients that are the foundation of great medical care. “Perhaps because I’m a woman, I see a lot of female patients,” she notes. “They tell me that they feel more comfortable talking to me about female problems. I really enjoy helping my patients, getting them through crises and making sure they’re doing all they can to stay healthy. It’s what motivates me to come to work every day.”

With a master’s degree in public health, Dr. Smith maintains a strong focus on preventive care and wellness. “Sometimes you’ll be able to prevent something before it becomes a bigger issue,” she says. “A great example is a mammogram. If we can screen more women, we can help catch cancer at its earliest stages.”

Dr. Smith was an All-American athlete growing up, and played soccer while at Columbia. When she’s not working, she enjoys introducing her young children to sports and spending time with her husband and family.

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.

Rose, Sue, APN

Sue Rose Finds Success Using a ‘Down to Earth’ Approach

“The best way to care for a patient is to know the whole family.”

Sue Rose had decided on her future career by the age of 10. She enjoyed caring for others, and health care seemed a natural fit.

She began her career in a hospital pediatric unit. “I very much enjoyed pediatrics, but in a hospital setting there is no continuity,” she says. “You don’t get to see the patients after they’re released, or follow their progress.” Her transition to a doctor’s office provided the continuity that she was seeking. “As a nurse practitioner, my major focus is on wellness and keeping a patient healthy,” she says. “Moving to a medical practice setting allowed me to experience continuity as I began to increasingly treat multiple members of a family.”

Family history tells a health care provider a lot, but there is still more to the story, according to Sue. “As a health care provider, I am interested in both a personal history and a family history, but that’s just the beginning. There is a personal side – a relationship – that develops between the health care provider and the family, at which point you begin to understand their unique dynamic. I personally feel I can take care of individual members more completely when I know them on a number of levels.”

This is a two-way relationship for Sue. Her patients know that she is a mother, wife and daughter. “Just the fact that my patients know a little about me makes them feel comfortable talking with me about many things besides their health, such as social life, anxieties, school, time management, etc. I also try to talk to them at their level in terms they understand. When speaking with teens, I am pretty blunt about possible consequences of their actions – smoking, drugs, relationships, and unhealthy habits.” Sue also utilizes the resources of a clinical care coordinator to help her patients – from school-aged children to senior adults – who may need counseling, nutrition advice, home care or other social services.

As a family nurse practitioner, Sue provides her patients with all aspects of general and preventive care, including diagnoses, treatments, consultations, checkups, ordering lab tests and prescribing medication. She is also certified by the state of New Jersey to perform student-athlete cardiac assessments for pre-participation sports physicals.

During her off hours, Sue enjoys spending time with her husband, four children and three grandchildren. She also keeps busy assisting her aging parents and being involved in her church. She loves to create, and in her spare time she is a seamstress who unwinds at her sewing machine or by doing crochet projects.

Mravcak, Sally, MD

Dr. Sally Mravcak Focuses on Family, Lifestyle and Relationships for Wellness and Prevention

“You’re not just looking at disease, but at family and social interactions and lifestyle. We ask the pivotal questions. Who’s cooking at home? How is the stress level? How much exercise are you getting? Do you have social relationships? All of these contribute to a patient’s well-being.”

When your mother is a registered nurse, you get an early glimpse into what it’s like to help others. That’s what happened with Dr. Sally Mravcak. “Growing up, we always had people in the neighborhood coming to the house, asking for my mom’s help or advice,” she says. “That was my inspiration for going into health care.

She chose family medicine because she enjoyed every rotation during medical training, from pediatrics to women’s health to geriatrics. “I didn’t want to give any of it up,” she says. “I like being able to treat an entire family, from the children to their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.”

Dr. Mravcak began her career working in a federally qualified health center, spending eight years caring for uninsured and underinsured people in New Jersey. “I like to advocate for my patients,” she says. “Every patient deserves excellent care offered with dignity and respect.” Prior to joining Vanguard, Dr. Mravcak also practiced full time in a women’s health center, providing comprehensive primary care, office gynecology and acupuncture. In addition to family medicine, she is board-certified in integrative medicine and medical acupuncture, and believes in evidence-based, whole-person care that takes into account the role of body, mind and science in creating wellness. She offers medical acupuncture in the Jersey City office of Vanguard. These treatments may be done alone or in concert with traditional medical practices to prevent and treat medical problems and promote emotional and physical wellness.

“Vanguard is always on the cutting edge of family medicine, as our name suggests,” notes Dr. Mravcak. “We’re pushing the ball forward in medicine, and in technology, as far as it can go. We’re also very open and accepting of patients of all backgrounds. We see patients of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities, and they each feel comfortable here.”

When she’s not in the office in Jersey City, you might find Dr. Mravcak on a biking trail, taking in some live music or spending the day at the beach with her spouse and two daughters.

Moscato, Michele, DO

Dr. Michele Moscato Puts Patients at Ease with Conversation

“If you can’t talk to your doctor about something that is on your mind, there is a good possibility that something will be overlooked and missed.”

Dr. Michele Moscato wanted a career in the health care field from the time she was very young. “I can remember talking about being a doctor as a child,” says Dr. Moscato. “I had a strong interest in biological sciences and I had support, especially from one of my high school teachers who mentored and encouraged me to see my goal and go for it.”

Family medicine was the specialty area that was the draw for her, which can be partly attributed to a personal event. According to Dr. Moscato, “When a member of my family developed dementia, I saw firsthand the overwhelming challenges my family experienced trying to deal with the treatment and care of our loved one, which was new to all of us. We were initially lost in the woods.” She decided to take from that experience and put herself in a position armed with knowledge so she could offer her patients counsel and direction that would make their health care journey a little easier.

Dr. Moscato completed her residency at Hackensack University Medical Center-Mountainside (now Mountainside/UHMC Hospital) in family medicine. After her residency, she was asked to join the hospital as a faculty physician and assistant director in women’s health. “Women’s health was and remains an interest of mine, but I also like variety, and family medicine allows me to treat all ages and all genders,” she says. “At Vanguard Medical Group, I get the opportunity to do that every day.”

Vanguard is a patient-centered medical home where the patient comes first and the staff takes a team-based approach to provide quality health care. Dr. Moscato notes that one of the most important actions that she takes during every visit is to listen to, and talk with, her patients. Communication is crucial. “Taking that extra time to talk with my patients puts them at ease so they are more apt to open up and share their questions or concerns, and oftentimes the things discussed offer clues to their health,” she says.

In her spare time, Dr. Moscato enjoys traveling with her husband, especially locally to neighboring states. She is an animal lover and finds time to volunteer with animal adoption agencies.

McCarrick, Thomas, MD

Helping People Is Dr. McCarrick’s Primary Motivation

“Sometimes, we use our expertise as primary care physicians to reassure patients. Sometimes, we cure their ailments or ease their pain. Sometimes, we connect them with the resources they need that make a real difference in their quality of life.”

Long before Dr. Thomas McCarrick ever held a stethoscope or peered into the depths of a sore throat, he was a kid in the Bronx who was impressed by a family doctor. It’s what motivated him to go into medicine and, specifically, primary care. “I wanted to be him. I liked science and I liked helping people. I wanted to be able to make a difference, and I saw medicine as the way to do it.”

Today, Dr. McCarrick gets a lot of satisfaction from helping his patients feel better and enjoy a better quality of life. As a family physician, he enjoys the warm feeling he gets taking care of a grandchild and then the grandparents, and maybe the parents too. He also likes the insight into their family health history. It helps him identify health risks.

As he’s gotten older, he’s also completed an additional certification in geriatrics so that he can better understand treatment of older adults. “There are patients whom I’ve cared for, for more than three decades now. I want to continue to keep them as healthy as they can be.” As a result, Dr. McCarrick is a constant presence at area nursing homes. He also spearheaded the nonprofit association Care at Home to bring medical care and other resources to homebound seniors and their caregivers.

On the other end of the spectrum, he’s the school physician for Cedar Grove Public Schools, a responsibility that he shares with Vanguard’s Dr. Robert Gorman. As a result, he’s a regular presence at Cedar Grove High School football games.

Preventive care remains top of mind, even when Dr. McCarrick is treating a patient for a cold or another illness or injury. “There’s a tendency to put it off, or address it once a year in a physical. We just try to keep it top of mind by reminding patients about important screenings or getting that flu shot. People get their air conditioners serviced every year; they get their gutters cleaned. You need to be their partner in health care, and this includes reminding them to get the preventive care they need too.”

One of the founding physicians at Vanguard Medical Group, Dr. McCarrick also serves as chief medical officer and chief informatics officer (view his full biography here). His longstanding interest in the use of information technology and computers in medicine led him to pursue a master’s degree in biomedical informatics. He’s also on the forefront of the new field of clinical informatics, having earned one of the earliest certifications.

When he’s not working, Dr. McCarrick is a self-professed fitness buff. He’s been working out with the same trainer for the past 12 years. He also enjoys ballroom dancing with his wife and spending time with family.

Dr. McCarrick is responsible for founding Care at Home New Jersey, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to support the homebound and their families and caregivers. To learn more about this organization, please visit the Connections at Home website

Mazzella, Carmine, DO

Dr. Mazzella Inspired by Family Doctors

“As an osteopath (DO), I focus on the musculoskeletal system, which makes up about 70 percent of our body. When functioning properly, it helps keep you in optimum health.”

It seemed that Dr. Carmine Mazzella was destined to become a family doctor. He entered the world delivered by a family member who was a doctor. His godfather also was a physician. “Growing up, I had these incredible role models,” he says. “My godfather in particular was instrumental in my decision to become a physician. He was delighted by my career choice.”

Dr. Mazzella joined Vanguard soon after his graduation from medical school. He had worked weekends at the practice during his final year. “Vanguard was a very good fit for me. I liked the scope of services and the patient-centered approach. Since I had trained in Verona, I already had relationships with the specialists in the area for patient consultations as needed.”  

He has a growing patient base that is primarily referred by “word of mouth.” “Patients usually develop a relationship with a lead provider,” notes Dr. Mazzella, “and have an entire team available for emergent needs like sick visits.” He has developed relationships with multiple family members, cultivating a deeper knowledge of family histories that help inform health care decisions.

Dr. Mazzella helps patients with chronic disease, including managing diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. He also focuses on the need for preventive care screenings. Because of his osteopathic training, he looks at disease a little differently – in how it relates to the musculoskeletal system. In that regard, he sometimes incorporates spinal manipulation, massage, exercise and physical therapy into patient treatment plans. The goal is to reduce pressure on joints and reduce inflammation.

When he’s not working, Dr. Mazzella enjoys photography, a hobby that he pursues with his wife. They also like to go camping and hiking.

Mathew, Julie, PA-C

Julie Mathew Strives to Be a Good Listener

“One of the most important jobs of a primary care professional is to stop and listen.”

Julie Mathew chose the health care field because she can make a difference in a life. “What attracted me to being a primary care physician assistant, and what keeps me going, is that I’m helping my patients strive to have a healthy life,” says Julie. “My day is filled with seeing patients, ordering labs and diagnosing patients with conditions ranging from a simple cold to diabetes, stroke or chest pains. I pay attention to everything they say, which helps me gauge how they are doing or what they need. It is so satisfying when a patient’s health improves because they listened and followed my guidance.”

Julie was attracted specifically to family medicine because every day provides something different. “There are days when my patients run the gamut from pediatrics to geriatrics, and their needs range from a wellness visit to relieving a common cold to managing hypertension or diabetes. I thrive on the variety family medicine offers, the opportunity to build strong relationships and the fulfillment I get from helping improve the health of another person.”

She joined Vanguard in 2011 as a physician assistant and, under the guidance of a medical doctor, provides a variety of services to patients, including annual physicals, wellness checkups, diagnoses, medication management, blood pressure screenings, inoculations and vaccinations. Prior to Vanguard, Julie worked in neurosurgery at UMDNJ.

Julie is fluent in Malayalam, a South Indian dialect, which has been helpful in the office, especially when communicating with elderly patients who speak English as a second language. “In any language, people want to be understood and we need to listen.” When she is not seeing patients, she keeps herself busy as a mother of two children and, in her spare time, loves to travel.