Student Spotlight: Dalton Labarge
What were you doing prior to this program?
I'm from the Akwesasne Mohawk nation. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Critical Indigenous studies from Columbia University in 2012. After finishing up my degree I moved to Rochester where I began what would be my five-year tenure as the assistant director for an Affordable Housing development intent on preserving neighborhoods in the city. I wanted to develop skills that would help me better serve indigenous communities. I found that while affordable housing is a persistent issue on most reserves, that critical health disparities and roadblocks to secondary and tertiary medical care underpin many other chronic social issues.
What motivated you to begin your path in the health professions?
My interest in medicine began at an early age but was eventually held back because I never considered myself a person of "science". My grandmother is a traditional healer in our community. She used generations old knowledge of medicinal plants to help individuals find comfort. One summer, I spent time with individuals who were blending traditional medicine with western oncological care to manage their cancer diagnoses. I saw the potential to build bridges between these two ways of treating illness. It was then that I made the decision to test if I could be a "science" person.
What drew you to attend the U of R’s post-bac pre-health program?
I was drawn to the UR's program because of the academic rigor of their science and research departments. I found an incredibly supportive team of professors, program staff and my fellow post-bacc students. Unlike professors of the large-lecture hall variety that I'd experienced elsewhere, the faculty at UR were very interested in providing extra assistance to get their students to understand and engage with the material before them. When I enrolled, I hadn't taken a science class in almost a decade. I didn't know how to navigate this type of learning. The support of this UR community helped me push through and open up my mind to new possibilities.
What have you liked about your experience so far?
The UR has a vast network of support. At the end of the summer session I began working in the Clinical Microbiology labs at Strong Hospital - the University affiliate. You could say I'm on my way to being a better scientist because of this program and the connections it's opened up for me. My end goal is to work with indigenous communities to strengthen the care continuum on reserve. As I start to work on med school applications, I'm hoping to specialize in either internal medicine or surgical oncology. I'm not set on any specific path in medicine. Being a new inductee into the science world- I'd like to keep my options open.