Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Jyoti Sharma

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight


1990’s Decade
: Dr. Jyoti Sharma
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1998
High School: Chamblee Charter High School
College: Emory University
Current Role: Medical Director, Women’s Heart Program at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

I grew up in Atlanta and prided myself on going to a high achieving diverse magnet high school.  As a young woman of color, I felt like my school and family had taught me a good deal about diversity and understanding others.  During my summer with 21CL, I remember how I was struck to spend time with students from rural and small communities that were nothing like mine. 21CL taught me that the concept of diversity encompasses more than just ethnicity and socioeconomic status and helped me to expand my idea of community and instilled in me the importance of seeking to understand others.  As a practicing physician, I know that I am doing the right thing for the patient when I first listen and then seek to truly understand their concerns.     

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.)

One of my most memorable moments at 21CL was leading my first group discussion and actually putting leadership into practice.  Being a leader is challenging and takes a lot of work.  Spending the week interacting with other young leaders gave me the confidence to stand up and practice my leadership skills, things like- communicating effectively, being an active listener, practicing problem-solving, and building up the courage to speak with authenticity.    

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how? 

Before I went to 21CL, I had not interacted with students outside my neighborhood and immediate community.  It was a great opportunity to meet students with different families, different values, different academic priorities, and meet students who had different ways of imagining what success could look like for them in the future.  Learning how to communicate and build bridges with other students that were not like me was one of the most valuable skills that I learned at 21CL.  I spend most of my days now communicating with different people across a large healthcare system and aligning members of different groups behind important initiatives.  My time at 21CL was foundational for my understanding and practice of how I relate and communicate with others.  

Why do you believe programs like 21CL are important? And what advice would you give to a current or future student?

My advice for a current and future student is to Believe in yourself!  So many of us struggle with self-doubt, with imposter syndrome and ask ourselves “Do I belong here?  Am I good enough?”   The answer is yes!  My summer with 21CL was critical in building my understanding of my leadership potential and abilities.  It was a place to explore the kind of leader I wanted to be and gave me access to connect with others so I could understand what different kinds of leadership styles looked like in real life.  I want to encourage students to stretch themselves, try something hard, stick with it, and believe in themselves. 

Share the inspiration!