“What did you want to be when you grew up?” For many of us, we can point to a handful of ideas. Maybe some would say “vet” and others “teacher” and still others “professional athlete.” But a medical director at a medical communications company? Angel Corona ’14 could not have imagined the path he took to get to where he is today.
Angel emigrated from Mexico when he was three. His parents chose to move out of a temperate climate to the subzero weather that graces Milwaukee, to explore the ample job opportunities there. Angel had formative experiences in the Milwaukee Public School system and always knew he was interested in science. A stellar student by nature, Angel’s high school teacher, Dorothy Handcock, connected him with a UW-Milwaukee professor, Andrew Arsenio Pacheco, that allowed him to help with undergraduate research when he was in 10th grade. This work was supported by the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED, an initiative to increase STEM participation from underserved populations. To this day it still baffles Angel, but he is thankful to have been given such an amazing opportunity. When his older brother decided to attend Carroll, he was drawn here and noted that, “Carroll had a different feeling for me” in comparison to some of the larger schools he toured. His family had made connections to several members of the Carroll community including James (Jim) Wiseman and then admission counselor, Dolores Ocampo Brown '99, M.Ed. '10, whose parents were also Mexican immigrants, and recalls how much his dad loved visiting with Dolores.
Angel reminisces that the entire campus was friendly and, knowing that he did not want to travel far from his family for school, despite having offers from schools as far as New York, he decided to stay close to home and made Carroll his first choice.
The admissions team worked hard to provide Angel with a comprehensive scholarship package. “Carroll really wanted to help students and help me in particular so that I could actually go to school there,” says Angel about the admission process. Once at Carroll, his advisor Michael Schuder and other professors were supportive and took authentic interest in him regarding his career at Carroll and beyond. He cites Michael Schuder for providing connections with faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Tina Schneider, as an advocate for Angel to consider graduate school and fostering his interest in microbiology; and Cynthia Horst as one of the reasons he considered microbiology and the biological sciences despite his heavily chemistry-based major. Additionally, he was able to take advantage of the full liberal arts experience, taking courses in graphic design and photography, which he loved. His only regret was not living on campus, “[It] might have made things easier on me.”
Throughout his courses, he constantly contended for high scores with Abigail (Abby) McGillivray ’14. Little did he know that he was competing against his future wife. After his time at Carroll, he and Abby both attended the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and shared lab time together as first-year graduate students. A year into working at MCW, the primary investigator they were working under, Dr. William Jackson, announced he would be moving to Baltimore. Abby initially decided she was going, but it was a tough decision for Angel as he hadn’t traveled away from his family or Wisconsin since arriving. Ultimately, they both went to Baltimore and got married in 2016. Angel received his Ph.D. at University of Maryland in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in 2019. Abby also graduated with a Ph.D. in the same field a week later (to the day!) and continued research as a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University. Abby’s love of teaching and science communication ultimately led her down a similar path as Angel, working as a scientific affairs manager for a continuing medical education company.
The mindset that Angel had when he left Carroll was that he would follow the traditional academic path of becoming a postdoc and eventually running his own lab. Science communications wasn’t a part of his Ph.D. program, but he attended a science writers conference in DC, which allowed him to better understand science communications and make connections with this facet of science. “Bill Jackson supported that for me which also gave me the opportunity to meet Ed Young who writes brilliant science articles for the Atlantic.”
As medical director for Communication Partners Group LLC, his team partners with pharmaceutical companies to create training materials for doctors and nurses on complicated medical products for rare diseases, infectious disease, oncology, and a diverse range of disease and disorders. It’s a fancy way to say that he communicates science. “I love this work and am fortunate to have found this company. It has been fulfilling – I have been active in the COVID space especially when it was hitting hard. It’s my way to fight against the pandemic.”
Angel continues to give back to his alma mater by sharing his own experience with current students. And to students entering college he says, “Keep an open mind! Be willing to try new opportunities wherever they arise. I was fortunate to get a lot of different experience. Don’t be afraid to talk to people – make those connections because you could have them for a long time or this might be the last time you see them. Make the best of your time at Carroll.”