June 23, 2022

San Diego Mesa College Alum Daniel Coronado's Determination Led Him to Yale University

By Beverly Fruto

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Today Daniel Coronado is a proud graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine Physician Associate Program and will soon be a community college instructor. Although his path to success was littered with a myriad of obstacles, Daniel’s perseverance and his motto, “It’s all about your attitude,” helped him face the challenges.

Coronado’s early years were characterized by poverty and tremendous instability. He grew up all over San Diego County, from south Chula Vista to Escondido, with 9 siblings and a mother who was a constant force in his life. By contrast, his father was in and out of the family’s lives because he was incarcerated at various points during Coronado’s youth. When describing his mother, Coronado stated that although she had a 3rd grade education, she was “street-savvy and the pillar of the home.” He continued, “Even though we were poor, the house was always clean and we always had clean clothes. She expected us to behave in the home and made it clear that she wasn’t going to defend us if we got in trouble out of the home.”  

Coronado’s family moved around so much that he went to seven different elementary schools, two junior highs, and two high schools. Coronado’s first high school was Sweetwater High School, where he admits he “skipped almost as many days as [he] attended.” His mother was aware of his truancy and often told him, “You’re only hurting yourself.” These words would serve as inspiration for Coronado to soon make a change in his life. 

He made a decision that would prove to be a major turning point. Coronado transferred to Castle Park High School because he believed he would have better educational opportunities there. At Castle Park, a classmate challenged him about his grades, telling him that she was shocked to learn that his grade point average (GPA) was 1.4. Coronado’s only response was, “What’s a GPA?” From then on, he not only learned what a GPA was, but he made a concerted effort to take school seriously. He stopped skipping school, completed his assignments, and studied. As a result, in the course of one year he went from earning 4 F’s and 2 D’s one semester, to earning 4 As and 2 B’s the next. 

After graduating from high school, Daniel enlisted in the Air Force and served honorably for eight years. He retired from the military in Georgia and took steps to pursue a career in health care. In Georgia, he enrolled in an emergency medical technician (EMT) program, and landed a position as an EMT. He then went back to school to become a paramedic, graduated with honors, and worked as a paramedic for seven years before returning to San Diego. 

Home in San Diego again, Coronado enrolled in a local community college, but said he did not feel connected to the campus. He then transferred to Mesa College, where he said he “felt a spark.” He elaborated, saying, “That’s where I felt like, ‘I’m a college student and I can achieve something. Mesa gives you that real college campus feel, like this is a legitimate school that’s going to help your career.’” Coronado graduated from Mesa with high honors. 

He eventually moved to Hawaii, where he currently resides, evermore determined to earn a bachelor’s degree and proceed with post-graduate studies. However, as he continued on his academic journey, he faced a slew of health challenges and medical procedures, including hip replacement surgery, a heart attack and subsequent heart surgery, vision problems, and two eye surgeries. Despite these setbacks, he earned a Bachelor’s in Health Care Administration from University of Hawaii West Oahu in 2017, once again graduating with honors. And in 2021 he graduated from the Physician Associate Program at Yale University, bringing him even closer fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a medical practitioner. 

He is currently preparing to take the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam. Additionally, this summer and fall he will be teaching biology and health classes at Leeward Community College. After passing the certification exam, he plans to work as a Physician Associate and hopes to eventually start his own urgent care business. More than anything, he says he simply wants to help people.

When asked if he has any advice for Mesa students, Daniel stated, “You're in the right place. You're making the right choices. Keep striving for more and for higher goals. This is your launching pad. Get ready for great things.”

Tags: Alumni, outreach-profile