Gaurdia Banister’s role as faculty, friend, and mentor to faculty and students is lauded as she retires
On the third floor of the Shouse Building, a crowd of friends, mentees, and colleagues from the MGH Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital gathered to say thank you to one of the IHP’s staunchest supporters – Dr. Gaurdia Banister - who was feted in a ceremony hosted by IHP Dean Ken White and the School of Nursing.
“I've always said that the IHP is my family, that it's my second home,” Banister, a Professor in the School of Nursing who’s retiring from the hospital after 16 years, told the audience at last week’s gathering. “This was a place where I felt like I truly belonged.”
The feeling was mutual, as IHP leaders lauded Banister for her commitment to the school’s educational mission while pushing for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“You have been a mentor, big sister, and colleague,” said Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Clara Gona. “You are like the shining star for me and for other people who look like me who can continue to look up to see what we can be. You are an example of what’s possible, so I thank you so much for that.”
Banister, who is retiring as Executive Director of the Institute for Patient Care at MGH, and Director of the Munn Center for Nursing Research, exemplified what was possible and so much more. Awards and accomplishments were commonplace. Among them: being named a Fellow with the American Academy of Nursing and receiving a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Black Nurses Association.
“You also served on the search committee that brought me here to the IHP, so I appreciate that very much and thank you for that,” said White. He listed off more than a dozen of Banister’s job titles, awards, and accomplishments--for the latter included promoting opportunities for nurses and nursing students, and for ensuring that leadership and staff have a voice in key decision making. Summarizing comments of the people in the room, chief among Banister’s contributions are her keen empathic listening skills and ways that Banister allows all voices to be heard.
“Your unwavering passion for justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion and for the opportunities for all people to have access to a great education and to have leadership opportunities,” noted White. “Your participation in advocacy for the IHP as a professor, as a guest speaker, as a problem solver when we need help, when we need partnership opportunities, you've been there, you've listened.”
President Paula Milone-Nuzzo called Banister a powerhouse in nursing, a champion for increasing the number of minority students and nursing programs, and a tremendous friend and supporter of the IHP.
“Gaurdia, you are the person who has contributed so much and protected our discipline in so many ways,” observed Dr. Milone-Nuzzo. “So few people can claim credit for making their profession better than what it was when they entered. You saw places where your interventions would make a difference. And you thoughtfully and diligently worked to improve the lives of others. It was never about you. It was always about the world you were making better.”
Associate Dean Dr. Ruth Palan Lopez shared her secret of keeping a notebook at her desk and taking notes when she’s with extraordinary leaders who say or do just the right thing. Lopez got an up-close look at how Banister operates during their collaboration between the School of Nursing, scholarship and research, and the Munn Center.
“Gaurdia is a master at the art of keeping us on track, but also able to include all perspectives, to find the positive and to reframe the things I would call negative into opportunities for growth,” said Lopez. “Together we've been successful in reinvigorating the collaboration between the Munn Center and the IHP.”
A handful of people mentored by Banister spoke about the difference she made in their lives because of a steadfast belief in their ability and her push to make sure they received an opportunity. IHP alumna Tara Harris, Banister’s former assistant who is now a nurse, is one such story.
“She started working for me, and after about a week she called HR and said, I can't work for her. I want my old job back,” recalled Banister as the room erupted in laughter. “She said, ‘I have to get out of here. I can't work for this woman.’ And thank goodness the HR person said to her, “Just give it a little bit of time. Just give Gaurdia a chance.’
“Well, she did and stayed with me for over nine years. But her hope and her dream and her love and passion were always to become a nurse.”
An opportunity presented itself that eventually brought Harris to the IHP, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree earlier this year.
“I felt like a proud mother with her mother because we were at her pinning ceremony,” said a beaming Banister.
Harris, who was in the audience, says Banister made all the difference in her world.
“Gaurdia has made me a better person,” said Harris, who will start as a NICU nurse at MGH next month. “Working for someone of her stature and professionalism gave me the confidence that I could do anything. I would have never been able to go back to school if it wasn’t for her support. I will be forever grateful. She’s my inspiration.”
An inspiration for so many who gave back to the IHP.
“I love the IHP for many, many reasons,” said Banister. “The faculty, the staff, and the leadership are just what I consider exemplars in regard to what they do. And I've had the opportunity to teach the students, mentor the staff, have collaborative relationships like with the Nursing Office of Research and Scholarship, and had the faculty serve on my Diversity Research Scholars program. Time and time again, being on advisory committees, being on selection committees, all of those things, I just felt like I've been a part of the fabric, and I've just been really grateful for that.
“The IHP made me feel welcome,” she continued “When there's so much discussion about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I felt like I belonged here. And they made me feel like I belong. And so, it made me want to give back and do everything I could to support their mission, their values, their vision.”
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