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Family doctor renews body, self-esteem

Published March 15, 2007

[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Dr. Joseph Cozzolino speaks with Sandra Grove, 39, in his office about treatments he can offer. Cozzolino has converted part of the Florida Medical Clinic in Wesley Chapel into the ReNew Institute Medical Spa, complete with fountain and candles.

WESLEY CHAPEL - Dr. Joseph Cozzolino sees 40 patients a day in his family medical practice, which is affiliated with Florida Medical Clinic. He treats people from "cradle to grave," he said.

All ages, all infections and colds and heart troubles, much like the town doctor who Cozzolino grew up seeing in his small New York village. But Cozzolino is now treating something new:


Cozzolino recently opened a medical spa next to his family practice. It's called ReNew Institute MedicalSpa and it offers nonsurgical cosmetic treatments - such as Botox, Vibradermabrasion, laser hair reduction, mesotherapy and others - as well as weight loss and smoking cessation programs.

"He's an old-fashioned doctor," said Eric Moore, a patient of Dr. Cozzolino's who bought his wife spa gift certificates. "He takes the time to talk to you."

His patients kept asking his advice on how to look and feel better. But they were scared of going to other places, other doctors. Putting your face in someone's hands is a scary thing.

Cozzolino went to a Cosmetic Medicine conference in July 2005 and came away interested in the business.

"There's a science behind looking good," he said. "And that was fun to think about."

Cozzolino is 38 years old, but looks years younger. He's slightly built, dark hair, dark eyes.

His grandparents were immigrants to upstate New York from southern Italy; his dad sold clothes at Montgomery Ward. Cozzolino decided to become a doctor when he was in the eighth grade and was steadfast to that dream - volunteering at local hospitals when other kids were out partying.

He was one of a dozen students accepted into medical school right out of high school. It's a program through Siena and Albany Medical College, which is close to Cozzolino's hometown of Gloversville, N.Y.

After his residency in Greensboro, N.C., he spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as a staff physician.

Not that working as a doctor - and being married and a father - was enough for him. He also went to school at night and earned his masters in business administration at the University of West Florida.

After that, Cozzolino and his family came to Wesley Chapel. He joined Florida Medical Clinic and opened his practice five years ago. He started checking every patient for skin cancer.

When he decided on his medical spa vision, he shared it with two of his family practice staffers - Pat Davis and Lisa Kentish - and asked if they wanted to work in it. This meant they needed to go back to school - something that, as women in their 40s with full-time jobs and families, hadn't been in the cards. But they did it.

Five days a week for three months, Davis worked all day and then drove to St. Petersburg to go to school to become a state licensed esthetician - getting home around 11 every night.

For six weeks, Kentish - who is neighbors with Davis in Wesley Chapel - lived in Miami and trained to be a state licensed electrologist.

They opened the spa in November. It's small, just a few tranquil beige rooms, with light sounds of jazz piano music and bubbling water filtering through. Cozzolino bounces back and forth between his family medical practice and the spa.

Most spa patients are the same people Cozzolino sees as their general doctor - like Mary Moore, who had Vibradermabrasion and peels on her face. She's in her 40s and never thought much about skin care. She'd use a bar of soap on her face or sleep in her makeup. But she started seeing some fine lines and didn't like them. Her husband, Eric, talked to Cozzolino and bought her gift certificates - something Moore wouldn't have done for herself.

Moore was nervous before going in. She had images of her face red and burnt. But it didn't hurt at all, she said. And Cozzolino was there. Even though he wasn't doing her treatments, he'd pop his head in the room to see how it was going.

"I feel better knowing that my doctor is standing behind everything," Moore said.

Cozzolino said he gets the most enjoyment out of helping his weight loss patients, like Joanne Cicero who - along with her husband, Vincent - has been on the program for five weeks. She's lost 11 pounds. On Thursday, Cicero wore a belt she couldn't get around her waist before - and she had it on the third notch. Her jeans were baggy.

"The temptation to have a hamburger isn't there anymore," she said, as she bought a chocolate protein shake mix.

Cozzolino said the excitement a patient has when losing weight is an amazing feeling for him.

"That will get you up in the morning," Cozzolino said.

Fast Facts:

ReNew spa

Address: 27343 Wesley Chapel Blvd., Wesley Chapel

Phone: (813) 991-7144

Web: www.fmcrenew

[Last modified March 14, 2007, 23:57:28]

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