NJAFP Family Physician Profiles

Click the physician's name to read the entire physician profile, as originally published in NJAFP's quarterly journal, Perspectives: A View of Family Medicine in New Jersey.
This interview began with a sentiment many in the field probably understand all too well. “It wasn’t necessarily my plan to go into family medicine,” Bennett S. Shenker said. “It was not a field that was strongly encouraged, and most faculty members were dismissive of it.”
Despite this familiar tale and a different set of intentions, Dr. Shenker ended up pursuing a career in Family Medicine anyway. He connected with the field during his clerkship and the rest was history.
Sara B. Leonard, M.D., a Bergen County native, dreamt of becoming the type of doctor that conjures up images of a small-town family physician – visiting patients with a traveling doctor’s bag, and treating them from their earliest breaths through the course of their lives. She even started making house calls as a youth member of her local ambulance squad.

But, as often happens, life got in the way.
Maya Bass, MD, MA, leaned on more than just her education, training and nearly a decade of practice experience when she delivered a presentation on resiliency, mindfulness and behavior change during the 2022 Family Medicine Experience.
“Wellness became crucial to my life because I live with multiple chronic medical conditions, which required me to make huge life changes quickly,” said Bass, who was diagnosed with celiac disease during her senior year in college and Crohn’s disease during her first year of medical school. “I did a lot of research and learned a lot of troubleshooting techniques to make behavior changes because I wanted to ensure that I was setting myself up for success.”
To some, being a family physician might seem like the easy choice, but Adity Bhattacharyya, MD, FAAFP, chose the field because she knew it was exactly the opposite. “I view myself as a puzzle solver,” she says. “I would never want to be restricted to just one thing, and that is why family medicine appealed to me.” She views the work she does as a puzzle that needs to be solved.
When former NJAFP President Peter Carrazzone, MD, began practicing family medicine more than 30 years ago, it was a "different world." In the early 1980s family physicians regularly began their careers in a solo practice, often taking over from another physician. In Dr. Carrazzone's case, the practice he inherited had patient notes on index cards. Computers were rarely used for anything but billing. The internet, e-mail and cell phones hadn't entered the daily vernacular.
As a Family Practitioner for over 30 years I adore my work, feel accomplished, know my patients well both health-wise and life-wise (their families, their jobs, their stresses, their accomplishments and their challenges.) I, like many others before me, have tried HMOs, concierge medicine, private practice and corporate medicine. I teach medical students, doctors in training and doctors in practice the latest treatments and the most up-to-date developments in LGBTIQ2 healthcare not because I get paid, but because I enjoy teaching what no one else seems to know.
For the physicians at Jersey Coast Family Medicine, work is literally a family affair. Kenneth Kronhaus, M.D., and Kelly Ussery-Kronhaus, M.D., the married couple behind the Brick family practice, met during their family medicine rotations while at Ross University School of Medicine. During residency, they had to work hard to maintain a balance between their hectic medical school schedules and their private lives.
When Thomas Bellavia, M.D., was told he had elevated levels of prostate specific antigens, doctors performed a biopsy to examine the affected area, said the results were negative for prostate cancer and suggested he return in a year. Trusting his own instincts as a patient and physician, Dr. Bellavia insisted that a year was too long, and he’d rather come back in three months. This time, at Dr. Bellavia’s urging his doctor performed tests and biopsies again, ultimately diagnosing prostate cancer. Today, Dr. Bellavia is celebrating 20 years cancer free.
All too often, drug addiction starts in the medicine cabinet. Dr. Roger Thompson, a board-certified family physician with Family Practice of Middletown noticed the devastating trend of prescription drug abuse, so he decided to do something revolutionary about it. He implemented an innovative protocol in his Middletown office to keep patients safe. Feedback from patients is generally positive, Dr. Thompson reports – and especially satisfying when the program makes a clear difference.
Like many family physicians, Dr. Cascarina treats patients of all ages – newborns to seniors – and has patients with two, three or even four generations of family members coming to the practice. The self-described “crazy happy guy” has built a thriving privately owned, three-physician practice in Brick that enables Dr. Cascarina to practice medicine the way he enjoys – treating patients in a caring environment while developing strong bonds.
The path that led Jennifer Caudle, DO, a board-certified family physician, to family medicine was not a straight one, nor was it a conventional one. However, despite the twists and turns, Dr. Caudle’s experiences have led to a passion for medicine and health education. Dr. Caudle, in search of scholarships, not only participated in a pageant, she went on to win the title of Miss Iowa 1999 and competed for the title of Miss America.
Dr. Carruth enjoys family medicine because of the long-term aspect the practice provides. She can see entire families- children, parents, grandparents - and build relationships with each of her patients. Every day she treats patients with a broad spectrum of ailments and illnesses, all with the underlying goal of helping people when they need it, as well as providing preventative primary care to keep people healthy
The introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009 raised significant questions and caused nearly all physicians to wonder about the future of medicine. In response to the anticipated changes, Stephen Nurkiewicz, MD, a family physician with a solo practice in Hammonton, began investigating how to best maintain a financially viable practice while simultaneously providing his patients the best quality care and practicing the type of medicine that gave him personal satisfaction.
In 2000, when Jeffrey Zlotnick, MD, CAQ was serving on the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians (NJAFP), the board received a phone call from Marc Edenzon, President and CEO of Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ), requesting help. The organization was running into a problem getting athletes to complete their pre-participation physicals due to various barriers that are characteristic of the special needs population when it comes to accessing health care.
When a patient is happy with a family physician, it is typically because of a good bedside manner, a caring and compassionate nature and the feeling that the patient’s concerns being heard. Liz Thomas, 55, has been a patient of Stephen Land, MD, a family physician with Virtua Mount Laurel Family Physicians for more than 20 years for these very reasons. But 12 years ago, it wasn’t Dr. Land’s usual interest in what Liz had to say, but more importantly what he heard through his stethoscope, that ultimately saved Liz’s life.
Family medicine is challenging. When Glassboro-based family physician Josette Palmer, MD, a solo practitioner, has expecially trying days, she focuses on the impact she makes on the lives of her patients. Like the time a patient visited the office because he had been sick all weekend. Staff suspected the culprit was a stomach bug, but since the patient complained about an uncomfortable feeling in his chest, Dr. Palmer ordered an EKG to check his heart function and activity.
Tracy Brobyn, MD had been practicing family medicine for more than two decades when she could no longer ignore the clinical elephant in the room. Like most family physicians, patients would come to her for a myriad of issues – many of which could be addressed with traditional medicine. However, a host of conditions, such as chronic pain, fatigue, atypical neuropathy and insomnia, seemed to remain a mystery even after exhausting the usual treatments.
1949 - 2020
Over the course of more than four decades in family medicine, Ken Faistl, MD set a goal for himself. “Fairly early on I developed the idea that I wanted to finish my career making sure no child was born to an opioid-addicted mother,” Dr. Faistl, who is board-certified in family medicine as well as geriatrics and addiction medicine, says. Difficult and impossible as the goal may have seemed, Dr. Faistl made it his priority to improve the lives of all patients, including those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.