January 23, 2021 – ST. MARYS, Georgia: There is no denying the natural beauty of McIntosh County, Georgia. The rural region is dotted with islands, marshes, the Altamaha River and moss-draped live oaks. It’s a peaceful place, but an unlikely launching pad for an African American girl determined to be a doctor.
“I was raised north of Darien in an area we called Briar Patch. Where I’m from, you don’t see many physicians who look like me,” says Jelisa Carroll, D.O. “Growing up, my teachers and advisors told me to find a different career path altogether. Being from rural McIntosh, people didn’t expect me to become a physician, but my love of science and helping others attracted me to medicine.” Dr. Carroll is a board-certified osteopathic physician practicing at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Camden Primary Care in St. Marys.
The young Jelisa Carroll didn’t have many role models in the medical field and lived in a county without a hospital. What she did have was a strong support system. “My parents encouraged me to pursue anything I wanted and provided me with the tools to be successful in life. My older cousin helped with my college applications. She had always dreamt of becoming a doctor but wasn’t able to,” says Dr. Carroll.
After earning her undergraduate degree from Kennesaw State University, she attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Georgia campus in Suwannee. While earning her medical degree, she discovered family medicine and did residency training in that specialty at Wellspan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “After graduating from medical school, I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest. I fought for what I wanted, which landed me where I am today.”
As a family medicine physician, Dr. Carroll cares for patients at all ages and stages of life. “I see patients at their happiest and their most vulnerable. My patient-centered approach requires listening, informing and involving patients in their care. I chose Southeast Georgia Health System because it is literally home for me. I was born there, and knew I wanted to return to the area to serve our community. Life has truly come full circle for me.” In the short time Dr. Carroll has been with the Health System, she’s already made an impact, both in the community and with her fellow team members. “Dr. Carroll is an amazing doctor but an even better person,” says Lindsey E. Sweat, M.D., board-certified family and sports medicine physician at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Primary Care. “She goes above and beyond for all of her patients. She is compassionate and down to earth. I have recommended her to all of my friends! And I know who to call when I need help.”
When Dr. Carroll isn’t caring for patients, she spends time with her husband and two small children. Though her life is “moving very fast right now”, when her children are older, she looks forward to honoring her rural roots. “Growing up, I saw health care challenges. Access to care is often a challenge and lack of education about diseases like diabetes still exists. I want to turn that around and would love to bring health fairs to McIntosh.”
You might wonder how Dr. Carroll’s aspirations will come to pass in rural McIntosh County. Never underestimate the determination of a woman who went from the Briar Patch to medical school. In the words of this dedicated doctor: “Nothing is more important than fighting for your dreams.”
About Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit health system comprised of two acute care hospitals, two long term care facilities, two comprehensive Cancer Care Centers and multiple specialty care centers, including orthopedic and spine care, joint replacement, breast care, maternity, outpatient rehabilitation, sleep management and wound care. The Brunswick Campus Cancer Care Center is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and offers the only CyberKnife® M6 with MLC technology in Georgia. Additionally, the Southeast Georgia Physician Associates medical group includes more than 140 providers working in 20 different medical specialties at more than 50 locations. The Health System is part of Coastal Community Health, a regional affiliation between Baptist Health and Southeast Georgia Health System forming a highly integrated hospital network focused on significant initiatives designed to enhance the quality and value of care provided to our contiguous communities. For more information, visit sghs.org.