Spark of Interest

Published on 18 January 2018

When Gina Banks, Pharm.D. ’14, M.S., MPH, was accepted into the Doctor of Pharmacy program on her birthday, she took it as a sign that she was headed in the right direction and eagerly accepted the new challenge ahead of her.

This would not be the first challenging academic program Banks had taken on. Her impressive career in health sciences and academia had already taken her places she had only dreamed of as a child.

Growing up with childhood asthma, Banks was often at the doctor’s office. She was intrigued by careers in health care early on, noting the great skill and teamwork displayed by the doctors and nurses who cared for her.

“I was always grateful to my pediatrician and her office staff for making me feel better,” she recalled. “It was amazing to me that I could come in feeling so miserable, and after a few hours I would feel so much better. That’s when I knew a career in health care would be the best way for me to make a big impact in people’s lives.”

After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Banks went on to pursue a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology at Saint Louis University and a Master of Science in Psychology Research and Evaluation at Walden University.

As she was evaluating patient data in her role as a research coordinator at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago, Gina noticed a spark of curiosity within her that would change the course of her life along with her career aspirations.

Banks was intrigued by the patients enrolled in the clinical trials she was working on, and she noticed stark differences in how medications affected seemingly similar patients.

“I wanted to uncover why patients had such different responses to drugs — to better understand how drugs metabolize in the body, and how different types of dosages can be beneficial or harmful to certain patients,” she shared.

After a colleague suggested she attend pharmacy school to explore some of those questions, that’s exactly what she did.

“I wanted to go to a well-established school with a good reputation that was close to my hometown of Florissant, Missouri,” Banks said. “St. Louis College of Pharmacy is unique because it is nestled next to prominent academic and research centers focused on health care. It gives students opportunities to interact with different disciplines of health care and showcase the expertise and value of pharmacy as an integral part of patient and community health care.”

As a lifelong learner, it was important for Banks to pay some of that knowledge forward. For the past nine years, Gina has been an adjunct instructor at several colleges and universities, teaching a wide range of courses.

Banks drew upon her teaching experience as a pharmacy student, co-teaching the Rx 101 course of the BESt Pharmacy Summer Institute along with two pharmacists from Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Banks continues to give back to the BESt program today, supporting its mission to prepare talented multicultural students for careers in pharmacy by offering advice on choosing the right career path.

“I had the opportunity to serve on the career panel for the BESt program in the past and recently spoke with students about my educational and career paths,” Banks said. “It was rewarding to see some of the same students I had taught years before and to address their specific questions about finding the right career path.”

In her current role as a medical science liaison for Bayer US, Gina provides scientific and clinical data to health care providers on Betaseron, a medication used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). She works closely with health care teams to address some of the challenges related to patient care and MS treatment. With her combination of skills and education, Banks has a unique appreciation for each member of the interdisciplinary care team.

It is Banks’ drive to help others and her quest for knowledge that has stayed with her all these years and led her to the field that continues to challenge and inspire her.

“Just as the pharmacist’s role on the health care team continues to evolve and grow over time, the treatment landscape for many diseases continues to evolve and change,” Banks observed. “Pharmacy is an ever-evolving field. It challenges you to stay current and continually seek new information and that’s what I like most about it.”

This story was first published in the fall 2017 issue of Script. Visit stlcop.edu/script to read more and access previous issues.

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