At 21, Miguel Roque has worked in Binghamton University labs and had a hand in studies at two other world-class research institutions. Despite this passion for research, however, Roque has chosen to pursue a career in dentistry.
The summer after high school, Roque, encouraged by his brother, participated in a New York University summer research program. He found the work exhilarating and continued his endeavors last summer at Harvard Medical School, contributing to olfaction research.
At Binghamton, the senior biology major works with fruit fly genes in the lab of Anthony Fiumera, a proponent of self-guided research. “He encourages you to get your hands dirty and figure it out,” Roque said.
Fiumera, an assistant professor of biology, ascribes Roque’s achievements to his attitude.
“Miguel is unique because of his perseverance,” Fiumera said. “He works hard and when a challenge arises he is not going to accept no for an answer.”
Roque’s perspective on research changed when he encountered the organization Medicine Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere, or MEDLIFE. Introduced to the nonprofit through the biology department, Roque was instantly interested. When no other students stepped forward to bring the program to Binghamton, Roque took the reins. Six weeks later he and a few other students were on a plane to Ecuador.
That first week, Roque, his team and medical professionals, including Roque’s father, saw 700 to 800 patients.
“We were pulling people’s teeth, and it was like a miracle,” he said. “The level of care you can provide up there is so reduced that the impact is so magnified.”
The experience reminded Roque of his roots: His father works as a doctor in an underprivileged Hispanic community. Roque was inspired to do the same.
“I felt like I should do something because I was so privileged to have that opportunity to help people who don’t have as much,” he said. “What do I have to lose? It’s $1,000, one week and a chance to change people’s lives.”
Aside from his involvement in MEDLIFE and work with Fiumera, Roque is knee-deep in the dental school application process. He plans to continue his work with MEDLIFE for as long as he practices.
“It just seemed dentistry was a more personal and more direct way to help people,” Roque said. “They see what you do and instantly feel relief.”
—By Liz Joyce