Growing up, Dr. Kassandra Colletta never thought she would become a doctor. Then again, she also never thought she would move to Las Vegas.
“I think many people come to Las Vegas and do things that they never thought that they would do in their life. For me, I guess that was going to medical school, residency, and living in Downtown Las Vegas,” says Colletta, “You don't always know what path you're gonna end up taking, I guess, and I think a lot of people end up in Las Vegas and maybe think the same thing.”
Colletta worked for several years as a biology instructor at her alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles, before pursuing a medical doctorate at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. Clinical rotations with UNR’s medical school brought Colletta to Las Vegas in 2016, and, upon finishing her medical doctorate, she matched with the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency program, which she completed in 2022.
Now, in a city she never envisioned calling home, working in a field that, according to Colletta, is rife with misconceptions, she serves as the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine's medical clerkship director and as an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
What’s your favorite Las Vegas restaurant?
Living downtown, a lot of the places I eat at are within walking distance. I love Esther's Kitchen … Esther's Kitchen is hard to beat.
Do you have any pets?
I have a dog. His name is Wilson. He was a rescue, and we’ve had him for about a year and a half now. We got very lucky. He's such a good boy. My husband and I saw he was on a kill list and said “Well, we're not gonna let that happen.” And so we went and brought him home.
Will Wilson be dressing up for Halloween?
My in-laws have a dog, as well. Her name is Ruby. I think I might buy them ketchup and mustard T-shirts, because she’s a large red lab and Wilson is small and light brown.
Tell us about an object in your office and what it represents to you.
I don’t own or collect a lot of things, but one of the things that I have accumulated over time are pins, like pins that you would put on a coat. Oftentimes with teaching awards, they'll give you a pin, so I have a set of pins that are a representation of teaching awards that I've received over time.
Part of the work that I do with UNLV is teaching medical students and teaching residents. Prior to medical school, I was a biology instructor, and prior to that, I was a tutor. So these pins are something meaningful to me.
Are there any teaching awards that you’re particularly proud of receiving?
Probably the one that I had received from the inaugural Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV graduating class as the Outstanding Teaching Resident. It wasn't just that I was necessarily chosen as the best OB-GYN teaching resident; rather it represented that the medical students had chosen me out of all the residents that they had worked with. Also, it felt special that the award was from the first graduating class. That was probably the most monumental one that I received.
As a faculty member who was here to see the school of medicine’s inaugural graduating class, what changes or growth have you noticed in the school since then?
Over time, the medical school has dabbled in different styles of clinical rotations (also known as clerkships) to see what was going to work best for the students, whether that was a longitudinal curriculum, or if that was spending two weeks on a particular service. This year, we're doing six weeks on OB-GYN, whereas some rotations are eight weeks in duration.
I think having a grouped clerkship (as the school has now) is more beneficial because you're able to build on skills over time and really hone in on them before you're off the service (or field), versus a little here, and then months later, a little there. Right now, I think it's working well, for students within my department. They seem to like it, and they seem to be happy. That’s all I really want for them is to enjoy the rotation, learn something, and hopefully, figure out whether they like OB-GYN or they don't. They don't have to choose OB-GYN as a specialty, but I do want them to feel like they've learned something from it, that they've grown as a physician.
What advice would you give a young person who’s interested in medicine?
Take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves to you because you never know what decision you make in life that can impact your whole future. If any opportunity presents itself and you're vaguely interested, you should look at it and pursue it.
I also think people worry about many things when they're younger that they don't necessarily need to. For example, should I take this class? Or, because it’s going to be hard, am I going to get a worse grade in it? Take the opportunities you can, and if it's not for you, then don't continue to do it.
I do think that a lot of worry goes into things that ultimately shouldn't be worried about. That's just probably a fact of getting older or growing over time, you're able to discern what actually requires anxiety.
What misconceptions do people have about your field?
There’s sometimes the idea that obstetrics and gynecology is just delivering babies, and it’s not. Occasionally, people will ask me: “Have you ever delivered a baby?” Of course, I’m an OB-GYN. I will also talk to people sometimes and they’ll ask if I’ve ever done surgery before, and I say “Yes, that’s what I do.”
In OB-GYN, you have many career paths that you could take. You could become a laborist who works in a hospital and primarily only delivers babies. You can become a gynecological surgeon who does minimally invasive or robotic surgery, so that you work mostly in the clinic or in the operating room. You might do gyn-oncology and work with cancer patients, maternal fetal medicine and work with high-risk pregnant patients, or do family planning and manage complex birth control and abortion care services. Finally, you might be a generalist, which is what I am, and as a generalist, you kind of work with everything.
In short, sometimes people don’t realize the breadth of medicine that OB-GYN covers. And, so to me, it’s very surprising when people don’t realize that obstetrics and gynecology really covers a large breadth of medicine for women from the time that they’re very young until they’re very old and every age in between.