Paging Dr. de Snoo: Rock defenseman pursuing MD/PhD At U Of T
Toronto Rock defenseman Mitch de Snoo has dedicated his life to the act of prevention. Whether it is thwarting a ball from crossing the goal line or working tirelessly to hinder the spread of disease and illness, the Oshawa, Ontario native is all about the greater good.
On the field, the 31-year-old’s resume features defensive player of the year honors during his first season in Toronto, back in 2021-2022.
“It was a surprise,” explained de Snoo when discussing his award. “I didn’t go into the year thinking that’s what my goal was going to be. Coming into Toronto with a new system and new players, they put me in a position with an opportunity to succeed. It reflects on the great teammates around me that I was able to elevate my play. It was a tremendous honor to win that award.”
Away from life in the NLL, de Snoo is in the fifth year of an eight-year MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto. Of the 260 students annually accepted to the school’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, only nine elect to go the combined MD/PhD route.
“The goal is to become a clinician scientist, who is able to see and treat patients and conduct a research program. I want to be the person looking into and understanding cures for diseases,” said the defensive ace.
Inspired by his father’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease and his mother’s work as a nurse, de Snoo obtained an undergraduate degree in biomedical/medical engineering from Philadelphia’s Drexel University, later achieving a Master’s in laboratory medicine/pathobiology from U of T. It was in this setting where the 6’2 lefty determined the direction his non-lacrosse life would soon lead.
“I discovered a pathway where you can have an impact on a patient’s life day-to-day, where you actually meet and treat the people, as well as developing more longitudinal goals of trying to understand a disease and trying to intervene to have some sort of disease-modifying or curative therapies available that don’t exist today,” illuminated de Snoo.
The Temerty MD/PhD program involves one year of medical school and four years of PhD related education/lab work, followed by three more years of medical school. de Snoo’s present-day studies involve memory laboratory research at Toronto’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children.
As one would imagine, de Snoo’s calendar is booked solid during the NLL season. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday start with taking the dog out very early in the morning, followed by extensive lacrosse training/conditioning. The 2015 first round pick’s day of conducting experiments and analyzing data usually commences around 9:30 a.m. When the workday concludes, de Snoo spends time with his wife Meg, a Toronto area lawyer.
On Tuesdays, during the season, de Snoo’s schedule also features Rock practice at the team’s Oakville, Ontario training facility. Friday through Sunday are dominated by game prep/travel, the game itself, along with some postgame recovery time.
For de Snoo, supportive superiors, with both the university and Rock, allow him the opportunity to pursue this crazy, yet highly rewarding existence. But the former Roughneck and Bandit fully acknowledges that the flexibility of the PhD portion of his program will not last forever.
“It’s my routine and I go with it. What’s fortunate right now is that research is more malleable schedule-wise, as compared to clinical work. Right now, as long as I’m able to get my work done it doesn’t matter what hours I’m working because it’s mostly me and mice, or me and the data. A clinical schedule is a lot more demanding because you’re working in the hospital with patients and you don’t design your schedule.”
When de Snoo’s educational efforts begin to encompass hospital rotations and clerkships, the Rock stalwart is fortunate to be able to call on a former NLL standout, who blazed a trail in the dual pursuits of lacrosse and medicine.
Roughnecks great Curtis Manning earned his medical degree during his playing days, and now practices medicine near Vancouver, specializing in family care. And as luck would have it, de Snoo and Manning briefly played together, back when de Snoo was a member of the Calgary club.
“I was getting my master’s, when I was first drafted, and we discussed what it would look like to go to medical school and how that would work,” opined de Snoo. “He was kind enough to offer me his time and advice. As I get closer to returning to medical school and doing that clerkship, I may need to reach out to him again to talk about the actual specifics of how he arranged rotations and made it work with lacrosse.”
When trading in a lab coat for a Rock jersey, de Snoo is overjoyed for the season that is now upon us, notably the Rock’s offseason acquisitions of Mark Matthews, Chris Boushy and Dan Lintner.
“It’s very exciting to have a big lefty who has won before. Mark is somebody that can help us get over the hump. Boushy and Lintner are great additions. They are guys who score a ton of goals.”
De Snoo’s glee for 2023-2024 is obviously tempered by the season-ending injury to defensive running mate Latrell Harris.
“He is a player we absolutely can’t replace. He was defensive player of the year (last season) for a reason. Unbelievable athlete. Unbelievable in transition. We’ll have to do our best as a committee to account for what he brings.”
No matter if his tool is a lacrosse stick or a high-powered microscope, it is very difficult to locate a man more dedicated to his life’s passions than that of Mitch de Snoo. Number 12 is truly getting it done.