Staying on the farm

Couple makes a commitment to Iowa

Suman and Cynthia Hoque stay close to the land with their restaurant and her plans to practice in rural areas.
Suman and Cynthia Hoque stay close to the land with their restaurant and her plans to practice in rural areas.

You would never expect a Minnesota native to be awarded a scholarship recognizing a commitment to rural practice in the Hawkeye State. Yet, in February, Cynthia Hoque, D.O.’14, found herself at the Iowa Capitol accepting a $4,000 scholarship check from Governor Terry Branstad.

Hoque, who grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota, has always been attracted to the rural lifestyle. Upon enrolling at DMU, she signed up for the Rural Medicine Educational Pathway (RMEP) to learn about providing care in a rural setting. She was the only non-RMEP scholarship student in her class to participate in the summer preceptorship in a small Iowa community.

“My first two years were in the classroom, so the preceptorship got me out in the real world,” Hoque says of her four-week stint in Panora, population 1,124. “I got to do family medicine in a rural area and I really enjoyed it.”

That experience reaffirmed her plans to practice primary care in a rural town, but it was her husband, Suman, who cemented their commitment to Iowa by opening Hoq, a sustainable farm-to-table restaurant in Des Moines’ East Village.

Suman was raised in a rural village in Bangladesh where food was local – everything came from the neighbors. Inspired by his upbringing and a mentor who opened an organic restaurant, he set out to create a place that fused food from local farms with flavors from around the world. Iowa was the perfect place for it.

“You can get pretty much everything in Iowa. And the quality is amazing; it doesn’t get any fresher!” exclaims Suman. “Ninety percent of our ingredients come from Iowa. Our seafood even comes from a Des Moines native who has a fishing operation in Alaska.”

Most restaurants use a few large distributors to supply all of their ingredients. Hoq has more than 50 suppliers from farms across the state whose offerings vary depending on the season. It makes it much more difficult to coordinate, but it is a rewarding part of the job.

“You get to know the farmer personally and where the food comes from,” Suman says. “They are so excited about what they do and thankful that I buy from them. Once, we ran out of chicken and a woman showed up and said she had 300. When I said I’d buy them all, she was so grateful that she cried.”

Cynthia echoes that sentiment, citing the close relationship she can have with patients and their families as her reason for choosing rural medicine. That shared bond and the friendliness of Iowans as a whole are what sold the Hoques on staying in 
the state.

“We never thought we’d stay in Iowa, but we realized it’s a great place to raise a family,” says Cynthia. “We’ve put down strong roots here. Des Moines is a community we’re a part of now.”

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