Student Follows her Heart into Career as Cardiothoracic Surgeon

In seventh grade, Jamaika Elliot did a science project on the human heart. As a natural science whiz, her work caught the attention of her teacher. He suggested that Jamaika look into a career in the medical field, but she was not yet sure where her passion for science would take her.

Inspired by family

With a history of heart and lung issues in her family, Jamaika knew she wanted to do more to help people struggling with similar health issues. Growing up as a person of color, Jamaika reflects that she never visited a doctor who looked like her. By ninth grade, her life experiences and increasing curiosity about heart health had shaped her decision to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“Being able to be a model for younger girls who look like me is one of my biggest motivations,” Jamaika says. “I want to have a chance to do that for another child. There are not a lot of black women trying to become cardiothoracic surgeons. I want to make that road a little more accessible for black women, or make it easier for them to picture themselves there.”

Jamaika’s grandmother—her greatest role model—has always emphasized education as a top priority. As an educator, Jamaika’s grandmother started her career as a teacher and later became a principal, earning her doctorate in educational leadership.

“My grandmother is a representation of everything I want to be when I become her age. She works really hard, helping other teachers become better leaders, but also supports her family at the same time,” Jamaika says.

Inspired by her grandmother’s example, Jamaika knows college is the next stop on her roadmap as a senior in high school. She says that the biggest obstacles to college are financial, but with her DSF College Advisor, Mr. Caricato—known to students as Mr. C—as a guide, Jamaika is paving the way to achieve her dreams at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder).

Navigating the roadmap to college

In the DSF Future Center at East High School, Mr. C is working with Jamaika to coordinate the many moving pieces of paying for college, from completing scholarship applications, to writing essays, to understanding award letters.

“Without Mr. C, I would be very lost when it comes to scholarships,” Jamaika says. “Even if I did already know about the scholarships, it would be hard for me to do a thoroughly good job because Mr. C also helps review my applications.”

Mr. C’s support goes beyond the walls of the DSF Future Center. By working with students like Jamaika through every step of the college application process, the college-going culture at East High School is growing.

“I am here in the DSF Future Center every day,” says Jamaika. “I come during lunch and also after school. This is like a little home for me and my friends. Because we’re always here, discussions of college are natural in our every day conversations now.”

Visit a DSF Future Center

We invite you to learn more about the work of DSF College Advisors in the Future Centers and meet other students on their journeys to college at a DSF 101. Click here to view upcoming DSF 101 events and to RSVP.