A Path Directed

LaDonna Barnes-Lark, '91 M.D.

LaDonna Barnes-LarkSomeone once said: "A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could."

In the case of LaDonna Barnes-Lark, someone thought she had the qualities to be a caring and competent physician. This sent her down a different career path, changing her life and those she now touches in her medical practice at the Drew Medical Center. The center serves primarily the underinsured and uninsured.

"At first, I didn't know if I had the tools to be a physician," said Barnes-Lark, referring to a time when she was enrolled in a dental assistant training program. "But my attending dentist thought I should consider switching to medicine."

Today, she encourages others as a mentor in WSU's Horizons in Medicine program, which introduces local high school students, mostly from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds, to various careers in the health professions.

Barnes-Lark also makes a special effort to connect with current WSU nontraditional medical students who have children.

"When I started med school I was already a single parent with a 2-year old," she says, "so I know the stresses and challenges they face."

In fact, Barnes-Lark feels the challenges she overcame help her be a better doctor.

"I try to relate to people without judging them," she explains. “That promotes a more honest rapport with my patients, which helps me better judge how best to help them."

She feels a special calling to the Drew Center. "It's funny how things come full circle. I grew up a few blocks from here, and many of my patients are people I've known my whole life. My husband was my next door neighbor, and I worked at Drew when I was a dental assistant. Nothing is circumstance. My path's direction led me here."