Antonia Bannister, a senior biology pre-medicine major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), recently completed a summer internship program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Known as S.E.A.R.C.H (Summer Education and Research in Clinical Healthcare Internship), the program was founded by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Heart Center and was designed for undergraduate students who are interested in exploring a career in scientific research and medicine. The program offered participants an opportunity to accompany Nationwide Children’s Hospital physicians and researchers for limited clinical experiences. Participants also get to discuss medicine, observe patients and surgeries, and conduct research. Each student is also assigned a mentor who provides advice on applying to medical school and preparing for the MCAT exam.

A native of Melbourne, Florida, Bannister says the program was an experience she would never forget. “It taught me that my problems are so minute compared to those who truly have more persistent [issues],” she said. “It made me realize how we sometimes, knowingly and unknowingly, take life for granted.”

While working at Nationwide Children’s Hospital,  Bannister learned that everyone in the group is an intricate piece to a puzzle to help solve problems that the patient has regarding his or her body. From her observations, Bannister concluded that it is imperative that every doctor, nurse, dietician etc. is on the same page when it comes down to the patient – in order for that to occur, there has to be a strong link of communication between each and every person involved.

Throughout her duration at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Bannister was paired with two mentors: Dr. Timothy Feltes (Chief of Pediatric Cardiology), MD, FACC and Dr. Deipanjan Nandi, MD. As she shadowed Dr. Nandi during clinicals, I was able to learn about cardiomyopathies, heart murmurs, and single ventricle heart defects. Under the direction of additional physicians, Bannister was able to witness heart surgery on a patient with a single heart valve,  placement of a Ventricular Assist Device  on another patient who had end-stage heart failure, and observe cardiac catheterization procedure to treat a patient who had a heart attack.

The program also offered several enrichment activities such as volunteering at the Ronald McDonald house to cook food for families, having dinner and open questions and answer sessions with current medical students, visiting a morgue and watching an autopsy be performed and attending social events and seminars on how to improve and revitalize the area around the hospital to support the health and well-being of children and families.

Bannister obtained the internship through the Office of Career Services at UAPB and says This experience has affected her career outlook by providing her with the opportunity to work hands-on in a clinical setting and the ability to network with people in high positions. The daughter of Dr. Pamela Luckett and Tony Bannister, she a member of the Carolyn F. Blakely Honors College, Walmart Foundation First-Generation Scholars Mentorship Program, Essence of a Woman, and an ambassador for the Student Involvement and Leadership Office. Upon graduation, Bannister aspires to become an Obstetrician Gynecologist who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine. She also wishes to open her own practice in an area with a medically underserved population.

“This internship helped provide me with the building blocks for my future and an idea of what it would somewhat be like to be involved in the life of medicine,” Bannister said. “Ultimately, this internship gave me further confirmation that becoming a doctor and helping those around me is something I truly have a passion for.”