Antonia Bannister, a senior biology pre-medicine major at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently completed a summer internship program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Columbus, Ohio.

The Melbourne, Florida, native said the program was an unforgettable experience, according to a news release.

“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.”

She participated in the program known as S.E.A.R.C.H (Summer Education and Research in Clinical Healthcare Internship).

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Heart Center founded the program which was designed for undergraduate students interested in exploring a career in scientific research and medicine, according to the release.

“The program offered participants an opportunity to accompany 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,” according to the release.

“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,” according to the release.

Throughout her internship, Bannister was paired with two mentors: Dr. Timothy Feltes (Chief of Pediatric Cardiology), MD, FACC, and Dr. Deipanjan Nandi, MD.

Why shadowing Nandi, she 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,” according to the release.

Other activities included volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House to cook food for families, having dinner and question and answer sessions with medical students, watching an autopsy, as well as 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 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.

Bannister plans 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.”