Osmosis News

How Osmosis Scholarship Winner Dalton LaBarge Imagines More as a Future Doctor

Osmosis Team
Published on Dec 21, 2020. Updated on Dec 15, 2020.

We’re pleased to shine a spotlight on Osmosis’s caring community of future health professionals this week with interviews with all six of our 2020 Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship winners! Today, meet winner Dalton LaBarge, a medical student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dalton’s application showed us how they plan to embody the Osmosis value “Imagine More”in their clinical practice. Check out Dalton’s full video on our scholarship page, or scroll down to the bottom of this article to watch it!

How did you hear about the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship? 

I came across a post about the scholarship on Instagram which took me to the Osmosis webpage. I was impressed by how creative the application process was, and how the prompts encouraged us to talk about our values, experiences and aspirations.

What was your Osmosis Scholarship application process like? 

I had so much fun putting together my application! The questions in the written portion were open-ended and thought provoking; I got to reflect on what I experience in medical education and what is missing. My favorite part was putting together the video, which typically would terrify me because I’m not a fan of seeing myself recorded. I appreciated that the submission was supposed to be unedited. I felt like the process was more about expressing myself instead of creating a stylized video. 

Speaking of style, I did have to take the opportunity to rock my beaded bowtie. It's a very special connection between where I come from, and where I'm headed!

It’s clear that you Imagine More, but if you had to choose another Osmosis Value, which one would you pick, and why? 

I’m a big mushy person, so I would have chosen to “Start with the Heart.” Medicine drew me in with its promise of bringing together empathy with science, a combination which, when mixed appropriately, can really bring about change in someone's life. I think of all of the small changes that we get to make when we act from the heart, when we prioritize caring for one another. And I imagine all of those small changes building up into a big wave of change that sneaks up on us when we least expect it. I’m so grateful that I get to leave the clinic most days with a full heart. 

Can you talk a bit about your approach to mentorship? Who is your mentor, and what have you learned from them that you’re passing on to your own mentees?

I am so fortunate to have several mentors in my life. I think first of my elders, Ionkhsothokón:ha, Ateronhiatakon, and Shakokwenionkwas who taught me the value of honesty, fairness and hard work. They also gave me the gift of the Mohawk language. 

Today, in medicine I’m fortunate to find mentorship with Dr. Christina Sollinger in the Pediatrics department and Dr. Flavia Nobay in the Emergency Medicine Dept/Office of Admissions. Both of these incredible teachers have imparted on me their excitement for their work, patients and students. They are dedicated, organized, thoughtful, fun to work with, and are each working tirelessly to make our institution a more inclusive place. 

When I work with my own mentees I hope to share even a fraction of these qualities with them. As a student mentor I feel like it is my duty to follow my mentees lead, to really get to know them and their goals and then to mold something from my own experience that hopefully fits their needs. Above all, in a field where there are consistent evaluations of students, I aim to be generous, kind and willing to answer any and all questions that my mentees have but might feel uncomfortable or timid asking elsewhere. 

You’re the eastern regional representative for the National Association of Native American Medical Students. What do you think health education institutions can learn from Indigenous peoples’ approach to health and medical care?

Onkwehonwe (Indigenous folks) built and continue to uphold some of the most dynamic, and mutually supportive networks of kinship and belonging. In my nation we have this code that we call the Kaianerekowa (the Great Law of Peace). You might listen to it and think it sounds familiar because some parts of it were borrowed for the US Constitution (they left out the parts where women run the show, but that's a different discussion). 

What I love about this code is that aside from the jurisprudence of running a truly representative government, our faithkeepers and leaders who carry on and reinforce this code talk extensively about caring for one another, about keeping a good mind (skanikonrí:iio), instilling strength in each other (ka’shatsténshera) and using all of the tools given to us by the natural world to bring about peace (Skén:nen). 

In medicine, as healers and leaders, we can learn from the indigenous mindset how to embody these principles to better our interactions in the educational setting and at the bedside. 

If you could do one thing different on your journey to medical school, what would you change? 

My gut reaction to this question was “I would have started sooner,” but after thinking about it, I wouldn’t have changed my trajectory. I took four years off to work in community organizing between my bachelors and a two-year post bacc (to do my pre-reqs). I owe so much to the people and experiences who shaped me during that time. 

If anyone is going to learn from my journey, I say this: prioritize the things that you love and find a way to meld them with the things that will make you a better doctor.  

How does it feel to have won an Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship? Anyone you want to shout-out or give thanks to? 

I am over the moon! My first gratitude is owed to the generations of Rotinonshonni who fought and hid and starved to keep our traditional ways alive under the threat of assimilation and settler colonialism. You brought me here on your backs and I am so honored to carry this legacy with me. 

Second, I have to give a shout out to Osmosis for considering me for this award and for all of their incredible study content (med school would be so tough without their videos). 

Thank you to the folks who are going through this wild journey of med school with me. Thank you for being there for me, for studying with me (or getting me away from the books for a breather), for pushing me to do my best and sharing in both joy and hardship with me. Y’all know who you are and you are appreciated. Niawenkowa! 

How has COVID-19 impacted your studies, and what advice do you have for students navigating these circumstances?

URMC has done an incredible job adapting our curriculum to meet COVID protocols in our school and hospital. We operate on a hybrid model where lectures are on Zoom and all small group activities and clinicals are in person (with all of the protective measurements in place of course). That being said, some lecture-heavy days we are on Zoom for 6+ hours and that is H-A-R-D. 

My my advice to all of those out there who are also glued to the screen for too many hours, avoid the Zoom gloom by moving around, taking screen breaks, watching lecture standing or using your dog as a pillow. Mix it up. And stay engaged! Don’t be a blank screen in the Zoom void. Turn your video on, ask questions, navigate the weird moment when two people start to say something at once. Your classmates and faculty who are doing the same will be so grateful for you. Hopefully even during the distant times we can still reach out to each other and connect in these small but meaningful ways. 

About Dalton

Dalton LaBarge (Rohsennase) is from the Akwesasne Mohawk nation. They are an MD Candidate in the Class of 2023 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry. Their clinical interests are diverse: Pediatrics, Surgery and Neurology. Outside of medicine, Dalton’s hobbies include exploring the woods, eating all of the delicious foods, and hanging out with their two akitas. A fun fact about them is that their first degree was in Creative Writing!


Interested in applying for the Osmosis Health Education Impact Scholarship? As part of the process, we ask for a video telling us how you plan to embody one of the six Osmosis values in your clinical practice. You just might win one of six scholarships on offer: one $5,000 prize and five $1,000 scholarships are available. Applications will reopen in 2021!