By Mark Ramos
For Dr. Elana Roadcloud, a career in medicine felt inevitable.
An attendee of Cardinal Dougherty and currently a resident physician at Jefferson Northeast on Knights Road, Roadcloud has a precise memory of what drew her to healthcare.
“I think it was the moment I lost my little sister is when it sealed the deal for me,” Roadcloud said. “I was drawn towards medicine around that time. I never want to have that feeling of helplessness and at that age, it really makes a difference on your perspective and outlook on life.”
Elana’s inspiration, Martina, was just 12 years old when she passed away. Roadcloud’s story would be remiss without mentioning sisters Aria (the hardest working person she knows), La’Mira and the beautiful Martina, who was gone well before her time and would have likely followed big sister Elana to Dougherty. They remain her role models. The sisters continue to give Roadcloud strength and taught her how to be herself.
“Martina probably would have been the doctor,” Roadcloud laughed. “She was wonderful. She had so much more in her and was beautiful to me. I just wanted to make her proud.”
Proud would be an understatement, Dr. Roadcloud.
During this difficult time, Elana was surrounded by the love and support of family, friends from Dougherty and the Wohlreich Junior Fellows program at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, home of the Mütter Museum. The Wohlreich program, one that Roadcloud remains a part of to this day as a mentor to current students in the program, was an essential part of this pivotal time in her life.
“Most of my friends were interested in doing something the summer after freshman year,” Roadcloud said. “We decided we wanted to do something together and that’s how we found out about the Wohlreich Junior Fellows program. So, we were like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”
Sure, the stipend for the summer is great, and hanging out with friends in the city? Hard to beat for a high school kid. However, what started out as just a summer job with friends turned out being the beginning of a journey into healthcare for Roadcloud.
“We actually got to learn about stuff we were really interested in,” she said. “At that time, I wasn’t sure what my options were. Everyone says doctor, but no one really knows what that entailed. The Fellows program is where I was introduced to what was out there. After that summer, that’s where everything took sail.”
Roadcloud’s travels have taken her to Ursinus College for undergrad and even led her to attending medical school at St. George’s International University in Grenada, West Indies, where she stayed for two years. At present, Roadcloud specializes in internal medicine. She’s also in the process of applying for fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine.
“I feel like that’s my calling,” she said. “I’ve found that helping people who are critically ill fulfills me. I feel like I’m doing best when I’m in the ICU and able to get patients back to something better than being on a ventilator or getting them back to a point where they can go to a rehabilitation center.”
At the risk of leaving someone out, it’d be difficult to name everyone who has helped Roadcloud along the way. There have been bumps in the road, sure, and though she doesn’t want to downplay them, her mother Victoria and husband Darius join her sisters in rounding out her best support team.
“My mom has been my cornerstone,” Roadcloud said. “She’s gotten me through every single bit of it and I would not be here if it weren’t for her. She was the one that came with me for the initial interview for the Fellows program.”
“There’s definitely struggles along the way,” Roadcloud said. “There are rough spots where you are not supported. People look at you and don’t believe that you can be an African American female doctor. People aren’t always as supportive as maybe you’d like. In those times, I really did depend on my family and my husband. I think I made it through because of their strength lifting me up.” ••