In an Instagram photo, a pre-teen Sarah Monesmith (’22) and her best friend are doing handstands on what looks like a glass ledge jutting out 110 stories above Chicago. It’s the perfect illustration for this Bulldog’s philosophy of life: “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.”
She can pinpoint the exact moment this philosophy began leading her to Butler, a Fulbright Scholarship, and a career in pediatric medicine.
A defining encounter
During a fairly routine hospital visit to check for injuries after a minor car accident, doctors in Jasper, Indiana, discovered that 10-year-old Monesmith had been born with only one kidney. They suggested tests at Riley Hospital for Children, which boasts Indiana’s most extensive pediatric research program.
Riley physicians pronounced Monesmith ready to live a normal life. But a different girl walked out of that hospital than the one who had walked in.
“I walked through the doors of Riley Hospital that day, and my life was absolutely changed forever,” she said. “I saw little kids being pulled in red wagons with no hair and their IV poles trailing close behind them. I saw worried parents sitting in waiting rooms. And I saw the bustle of this magic hospital where everyone’s only goal was to save the lives of innocent kids.”
A wave of emotions washed over her.
“I got to go home that day and play in my summer tennis tournament, but there were kids who had been there for days, weeks, months, even years for treatment. I left feeling sad, guilty, and frustrated.”
Monesmith would devote herself to raising $25,000 (so far) for Riley Children’s Foundation. A big chunk of that experience would factor into her decision to enroll at Butler.
From tennis and dance to research and Italy
Monesmith came to Butler as a tennis first-team academic all-state selection and would become the Butler tennis team’s captain (and student athlete advisory committee president and representative to the Big East student athlete advisory committee). Just as importantly, she also came to join the Butler University Dance Marathon, a 12-hour event that raises thousands for Riley Hospital.
“Butler had a tennis team to play on, a good basketball team to watch, and it was my dream to be president of BUDM. Butler checked every box for me,” she said.
Of course, academics also were a significant draw. Monesmith enrolled in Butler’s nationally ranked Health Sciences degree program. That’s where she found her calling, she said.
“I fell in love with medical research at Butler, which I was not expecting at all. I’m a really creative person, and I’ve never had a creative outlet I have loved as much as research,” she said. “To be in a medical lab doing hands-on experiments that contribute to society was a great thing. I know I have to have research as part of my future.”
Coming full circle
She has been conducting ovarian cancer research with Butler Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Geoffrey Hoops since 2020. The Fulbright Scholarship will allow her to continue that project in Italy.
“I was extremely surprised to get a Fulbright Scholarship. It’s so competitive. I felt good about my application, but most people take eight months to complete it, and I did it in a month. Then, I really wanted to go to Italy. You’re supposed to speak an intermediate level of Italian—I’m good at pronouncing the names of pasta, but that’s about it.”
When she returns stateside in 2023, Monesmith can look forward to medical school and residency. In the end, she hopes to end up right where she started: at Riley Hospital for Children.
“I want to be a pediatric oncologist or some other pediatric specialty. I’d love to be conducting my own research. I’d love to be back in Indianapolis, and I’d love to be helping the kids at Riley.”