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Corey Bryant Profile V2

Intellectual Curiosity and a Passion to Make a Positive Impact Makes Corey Bryant an Innovator for The Alliance

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A passion for organizational culture might be an unusual interest for an adolescent, but it led Corey Bryant to become an expert in organizational communications – the area he now leads as the senior director of communications and strategic initiatives at the Organ Donation and Transplantation Alliance (The Alliance). He manages The Alliance’s communications, marketing and strategic efforts for unique national events, programming, partnerships and business development.

Bryant’s early interest in business was focused on an organization known for creating magic. “Disney was a company that put themselves forward in a way that connected with consumers like no other organization out there,” says Bryant. “It was an internationally recognized company, and they built their entire brand around storytelling.”

Known for an early precociousness and keen sense of perception, Bryant took his first of several family vacations to Walt Disney World when he was 10 years old. “I was just fascinated by the place from a young age,” he says. “I noticed how they were driving these operational efficiencies with storytelling and immersive entertainment, and it hooked me.”

He noticed that being there had a profound psychological effect on people. “It made people happy. That’s what fascinated me. I wondered what kind of culture do you have to build to get people to represent you that way? That’s what sparked an interest for me.”

412 (2)That early interest led him to 10 years of internships and professional marketing roles with Disney where he honed his expertise in event management and communicating with stakeholders. After several front-line internships in the Disney Parks, he was selected for a Disney Professional Internship Program and had a stint in the Services for Guests with Disabilities office. When he graduated from college, he was offered a full-time marketing position with Disney Cruise Line, where he assisted with the launch of two new cruise ships.

“Over 10 years, I did everything from driving a parking tram and auditing ships and monorails for ADA compliance, to coordinating an onboard filming of Wheel of Fortune and teaching orientation classes with Mickey Mouse,” says Bryant. “Disney has a unique way of teaching you the ultimate standards of professionalism, attention to detail and commitment to quality in everything you do.”

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Bryant led an orientation class called “Traditions” for new crew members, in which Mickey Mouse delivers their first Disney nametags.

Pulled to Donation

After nearly 10 years with Disney, Bryant said he began feeling emotionally pulled to work in an area where he could make a profound difference in the lives of others. He found that mission-driven arena in organ donation when he was recruited to join the public relations team at TransLife Organ & Tissue Donation Services (now OurLegacy), Central Florida’s organ procurement organization, in 2013.

During his first week, he met Heather Thornbury, whose six-month-old daughter, Arden, had received a heart transplant at just three months old. “Heather offered me the opportunity to hold her baby girl, and looking at this tiny miracle of a human, there was this ultimate feeling for me that told me this is where I was supposed to be.”

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5-month-old Baby Arden departed UF Health Shands Hospital with a new heart just before Christmas 2012 with mother Heather and father Dale. The surgery was performed by Dr. Mark Bleiweis.

“Arden had a complex medical situation, and she passed away at about ten years old – but she forever remains a critical part of my ‘why.’ In sharing the stories of patients and families like hers, I got to make sure their legacies would continue to have a profound impact on people,” continues Bryant. “I never had a personal connection to organ donation beforehand, but now I’ve had the honor of making friends and family with so many people who have given or received the gift of life. It makes a lasting impact on you and tells you that the work you’re doing is meaningful.”

He joined The Alliance in 2017 and established The Alliance’s communications department. Today, he is one of four full-time staff members. He says the small team is ‘lightning in a bottle.’ “It’s unlike any team that I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone is insightful and extremely knowledgeable and has a willing and capable attitude. Everybody compliments each other so well.”

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The Alliance Team at the 2023 National Pediatric Donation and Transplantation Summit. Left to Right: Janet Beckley, Deanna Fenton, Felicia Elizondo, Corey Bryant and Karri Hobson-Pape.

Leveraging Technology to Create Efficiencies

Bryant is known for his intellectual curiosity and using technology to create efficiencies at The Alliance, which he attributes to having a non-profit mindset and being keenly aware that time, resources, and manpower are limited. “I both terrify and excite my colleagues when I say, ‘I have an idea,’ but it comes out of a desire to create more effective and efficient means of working.” He says The Alliance has been very supportive of his interest in exploring new technologies.

One of his first responsibilities upon joining The Alliance was learning how to publish a textbook. In 2017, Foundational Perspectives of Organ Donation course co-chairs Dr. Chris Michetti and Dr. Galen Henderson had worked with more than 25 authors to develop a comprehensive textbook on the organ donation process. “My job as Editorial Director was to take the raw manuscript, edit it, source a publisher and design it into something fit for a professional education course. I had never done anything like this before, but a little research and a few online tutorials go a long way,” says Bryant. The Foundational Perspectives of Organ Donation textbook, now in its third edition, has since become a go-to staple for many OPOs as they onboard new staff or train hospital donation champions.

His latest techie endeavor is to create an artificial intelligence Chatbot that will answer frequently asked questions that staff members of The Alliance now respond to either by phone or email. “The exciting part is that it’s going to grow with us,” says Bryant.  “As it encounters new questions or situations or as it receives more frequent questions on a particular area, that’s going to tell us what we need to go back and train it on. It’s going to be wonderful to have that level of smart computing.”

Focused on the Needs of Stakeholders

Bryant is also known for his focus on the needs of The Alliance’s stakeholders and says he likes to have his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the community, particularly during the current era of rapid change. “Being able to have very transparent conversations is crucial,” says Bryant. “That helps us determine how The Alliance can respond to an unmet need.”

“Traditionally, The Alliance has worked with the three main entities of organ donation and transplantation – OPOs, transplant centers, and the hospitals where donors are cared for,” he continues. “We’re learning that as the system continues to evolve, industry plays an increasingly critical role as a fourth estate. In working with our corporate partners, we’re learning more about what makes the entire system tick. The Alliance’s signature events help people in our community realize how industry is helping to bridge gaps and how to do things more cost effectively, more efficiently and start conversations about who owns various processes.” He points to The Alliance’s 2023 National Critical Issues Forum on Logistics where various models were discussed for transporting organs, which are now often required to travel longer distances over long periods of time.

That focus on stakeholders extends to his volunteer service. With a long-time commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion issues, Bryant has been an active volunteer since 2016 in Orlando’s LGTBQIA+ community. For the past two years, he has served as board president of Come Out With Pride, the nonprofit that hosts Orlando’s annual LGBTQIA+ Pride celebration and other experiences. “I became involved with Pride after the Pulse nightclub tragedy as a way to give back to the community,” says Bryant. “After moving away from home at a young age, Orlando was such a transformational place for me. I felt like I owed it to another generation to be able to experience a city that’s accepting of LGBTQIA+ people. Those opportunities didn’t necessarily exist where I grew up.” Come Out With Pride has become one of the largest Pride celebrations in the southeast, attracting more than 250,000 people each year.

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Bryant prepares to kick off Orlando Pride’s “Most Colorful Parade” in 2022

Bryant grew up in a rural area 30 minutes north of Birmingham, AL. His parents live near Birmingham along with his two younger brothers and their families, who have provided Bryant with one nephew and three nieces, with another niece expected in May. “The best title I’ve ever held is ‘Unc Corey,” he says.

From Drum Major to Events Major

Bryant was a drum major in high school and earned a music scholarship to the University of Alabama, where he played saxophone in Alabama’s Million Dollar Band. After his sophomore year, one of his friends convinced him to try out to become a drum major.

Those years strengthened his ability to manage events with many moving pieces, which is a strength that benefits The Alliance. “Being a drum major taught me to juggle a lot of different priorities,” says Bryant. “It’s one thing to know the music, but you also have to know the game of football and understand what’s happening on the field so you can cue up the right cheer – and do it in a matter of seconds before the next snap or the next commercial comes on the jumbotron.”

When he was working at Disney Cruise Line, he recounts that he learned from one of his mentors who led the operations integration team and oversaw major press events. “She taught me to have a consistent, minute-by-minute plan of what was going to be happening at events – ask every question, factor every detail and plan for every possible scenario. I always try to prepare for The Alliance events that same way to eliminate any last-minute variables. Event management is like a big puzzle with constantly moving pieces.”

Travel Bug and Home Improvements

Bryant and his husband, Justin Higley, whom he met when they were both working at Disney, were married in 2023 and had a travel-themed wedding. In one activity, guests placed color-coded pins on a map to recommend where the couple should travel next. They spent their honeymoon on a cruise to the Mediterranean, and their 2024 travel plans include Norway and England. Their intense love of travel also extends to domestic trips and going to live theater in New York City is at the top of their list.

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Bryant and husband Justin spent their honeymoon on a grand tour of Italy, including Venice, Florence, Rome, Genoa, Naples and Sicily.

Both Bryant and his husband work from their home in Orlando, FL, and are active DIYers of home renovation projects, the latest of which is a major landscaping project. They have a growing menagerie of four dogs and two cats. “We have a soft spot for adopting senior pets – so we essentially run a convalescent home for dogs these days. Our favorite thing to do is pile them all in an RV and hit the road for a few days.”

“I really enjoy being a part of donation and transplantation because it’s a such a niche area of health care,” says Bryant. “A colleague once said that donation represents the very best of humanity. We get to see the finest in medical science and the finest in humanity at a convergence point. That’s an exciting place to be and I consider myself very fortunate to work in this space.”

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Bryant with nieces Parker and Saylor (now 3), and nephew Jackson (now 7). Bryant welcomed an additional niece, Palmer, in April 2023 and another, Hayden, is expected in May 2024.
NYU Researcher Macey Levan’s True Service is in Cutting-Edge, High Impact Science that Moves the Needle for Transplant Patients, Living Donors, and Donor Families  
UAB’s Arnold G. Diethelm Endowed Chair in Transplant Surgery Dr. Jayme Locke will Present on the Innovative Parsons Model at The Alliance’s Innovation Forum on April 30

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