Miguel Roque, a senior biology major at Binghamton University, is passionate about research. But a chance encounter with the organization Medicine Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere, or MEDLIFE, took him all the way to Ecuador – and a future career in dentistry.
Introduced to the nonprofit through Binghamton’s biology department, Roque was instantly interested – so interested in fact that he headed up the effort to bring the program to Binghamton. And 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 working with Anthony Fiumera, an assistant professor of biology at Binghamton University, 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.”