Michael Coletta '12 D'16

Michael Coletta '12 D'16

Paging Dr. Coletta—From the Classroom to the Emergency Room 

A member of the first graduating class from Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Michael Coletta ’12, D’16 is fulfilling his lifelong dreamone that many of us could never quite imagine, especially during a world-wide pandemic. 

After three years in residency at Cooper University Hospital, Coletta has spent the last year as an emergency room attending physician at Grand Strand Health in Myrtle Beach.

“My time at CMSRU was a great experience, and I absolutely credit Rowan for preparing me and giving me the skills I needed to be successful.”

Rowan Days

Coletta said two main benefits of his undergraduate years studying biochemistry were the rigorous programming and the small classes. With no more than 12 students in a class, he enjoyed unlimited one-on-one time with his professors and believes the challenges of his major got him excited and ready for what was to come in medical school. 


“Dr. Greg Caputo had such a huge impact on me as a student,” he added. “He was like the coach who’s hard on you because he wants you to get better. He was tough, and I liked that. I attribute a lot of my success to the way he taught.”

Coletta found that most of his worries faded away when he was accepted into CMSRU and was able to focus and learn the art of mental discipline.

“The biggest struggle I faced in medical school was preparing for my board exam,” he shared. “It’s a four-part exam, and you take the first at the end of your second year. You really had to self-facilitate what and how much you studied. It was very intense, but looking back, I’m glad I had the resources I did at CMSRU. Passing that exam paved the way for the rest of my schooling and residency.”

While endlessly studying and preparing became a familiar part of Coletta’s routine for years, his journey was never a solo one.

“My parents were always a phone call away, and my sister and my best friend were close,” he said, describing the state of his mental health throughout his education. “There was no going outside or getting any exercise. I was stuck indoors studying and that was hard, but I stayed pretty well aware of the warning signs. Also, my class at CMSRU was very small, about 50 people. We were very lucky to have a social network where we all supported one another.”

The Family Business

While others may have aspired to be astronauts or ballerinas in kindergarten, Coletta insisted there was never a time that a path other than medicine was for him.

“I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” he said. His father, also an ER doctor, has been in the field for over 35 years. “I grew up watching my dad, and even working with him for a short time, and it was really special being able to learn from him.”

Coletta’s parents hoped he would choose an art field, specifically architecture, as he always had a talent for drawing, but medical school remained his end goal as he progressed from being an ER technician and an EMT, to a resident and now attending physician.

“I learned how to deal with the adrenaline, the rush and the intensity of it all through my early experiences,” he said. “When I became a resident, I wasn’t the sole person responsible for patients, so it was a different kind of pressure at that point. I always had someone. That was the purpose of residency. Now that I’m on my own with residents that I supervise, it’s a completely different level of pressure. It’s my responsibility to teach and to heal.”

Coletta thanks his father for showing him early on what true “bedside manner” looks like and for helping him to find his own methods.

“You have five minutes to gain your patient’s trust, learn something about them, figure out what brought them in and how you’re going to help them,” he explained. “It takes practice to learn how to do that well, and my dad was a pro.”

On the Frontline

In early February, Coletta spoke about the ER as if it was his second home.

MC“The ER never sleeps, but it’s exciting,” he explained. “I take care of senior citizens, I’ve delivered babies, I’ve stitched little bumps and bruises and I’ve worked on life threatening injuries—I see anybody who comes in. That’s my favorite part. You often get someone who is super sick or super scared and the opportunity to take care of them is what makes it special.”

Now, more than four weeks into the country’s urgent response to the coronavirus pandemic, not a thing has changed.

“I took my Hippocratic Oath,” he said in late March. “I signed up to take care of sick people through all walks of life. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they’re from, or what their illness is. That’s my job.”

Coletta offered advice for the larger community, the nation, and beyond: we’re going to get through this.

“It’s not an unrealistic thing to say, in my opinion, because we will get through it. The deeper into it we go, the better understanding we are going to have. I tell people all the time, flattening the curve is a real thing and everyone needs to be taking the proper precautions. It is serious, but we will come out the other side.”

Regarding the lack of testing kits in certain areas and the capacity to test at the local and state levels, Coletta offered a simple viewpoint: assume you already have it.

“Testing is not super important to me,” he said. “For one, the test is a coin flip. If you had it and you felt fine, I would tell you to do the same thing I’d tell those who do not have it or who don't know: social distance and isolate from others, wash your hands, stay hydrated and do not touch your face. If your symptoms were serious enough that you needed to be hospitalized, that’s what I’m here forwhat healthcare workers are here for. We will do what we need to get you better, regardless of if you are confirmed positive or not."

“Rapid testing is coming, and more tests will be available, but until the coronavirus test is as readily available and reliable as a pregnancy test, I advise my patients not to worry so much about the test itself.”

A Doctor at Home

Coletta joked that if he never got into medical school he would have looked into culinary school.

“Cooking is one of my favorite things to do,” he said. “If I have a tough week, I’ll go to the grocery store and get everything I need to make an elaborate dinner.”

His favorite thing to cook? Pasta from scratch.

“I do like to golf and watch TV too,” he added. “My fiancé really wants me to watch 'The Bachelor' with her, but it’s just so ridiculous! I’ll be moving back to South Jersey this summer, so I’m excited to take her out on a nice date and be able to spend more time with my family.”

A member of the Rowan University Board of Alumni Directors, Coletta also shared his excitement to become more involved in re-engaging alumni with their alma mater.

“I’m very proud of Rowan and honored to be a member of the Board,” he said. “It’s been rewarding to be part of important discussions and to network with those who are accomplishing such great things.”

Humanity First

When asked about the future and how he plans to cope with such uncertainty in the emergency room, Coletta answered honestly, “I’m nervous, but I’m not scared. I know that as a doctor, I’m going to go to work and see people who are struggling, who are sick, who are dying, and it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to help every single one of them.”