Unlike many medical students, Marco Angulo didn’t grow up with a
burning desire to be a doctor. Playing the guitar was more his thing.

He scraped through high school, and then hustled for studio work in Hollywood while playing lead guitar in Romantic Torture,
an East L.A. alternative rock band that released an album in the
mid-’90s. But music didn’t make money, and at age 26 — nearly destitute —
Angulo says he hit rock bottom.

“I knew there had to be something better than this,” he says.

He enrolled at East Los Angeles College, where he discovered the two
passions that drive him to this day — medicine and giving back to his
Latino community — and set him on a 15-year journey to the
balloon-festooned podium at UC Irvine’s Match Day ceremony in the
Medical Education Building plaza. There, on March 17, before hundreds of
friends, family and classmates Angulo shared the joyous news of where
his new journey will continue — as a resident family medicine physician
at UCI.

For graduating medical students like Angulo, nothing matches Match Day – the day they learn where they will spend the next three to seven years pursuing postgraduate medical training and beginning careers as doctors. Match Day occurs simultaneously at medical schools nationwide, filling about 24,000 residency positions that open up each year at hospitals and clinics.

At UCI’s festive Match Day event, each anxious student marches to a podium in front of family and friends and opens an envelope containing a notification of acceptance to a residency program. It’s a celebration as much as a valediction, and of the 104 soon-to-be doctors at UCI who matched, no one received more cheers or more hugs than Angulo, and not only because it was his 41st birthday. Within the School of Medicine, Angulo is admired as an enthusiastic leader, a mentor, a teacher, an organizer and an endlessly positive and encouraging friend. No interaction with him is complete without one of his strong hugs.

“Marco is an incredible inspiration to so many people,” says Anna Fellmann, a third-year UCI medical student who knew Angulo as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley when he worked with its Biology Scholars Program. “He’s always the advocate, always reaching out to people. He sees talent in others that they don’t see in themselves.”

Angulo and Fellmann are part of UCI’s lauded Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community (PRIME-LC), which trains physicians and leaders for underserved Latino communities. Along with a medical degree, PRIME-LC students study relevant cultural and social issues and earn a master’s degree. Angulo received his in demographics and social analysis, focusing on the benefits of diversity in medicine.

“PRIME-LC has been fantastic. I couldn’t have gone anywhere else for medical school,” says Angulo, a Montebello native. “What I’ve learned here is helping me fulfill what I want to do – serve my community.”

Part of this service is to encourage other Latinos to consider healthcare fields. He remains active in groups such as the Latino Medical Student Association, and helped create with UCI medical school faculty a summer pre-med program for local high school students. He regularly speaks to Latino student groups.

“Marco has a natural talent with people – a gift – that I’ve never seen before,” says Dr. Charles Vega, assistant professor of family medicine and PRIME-LC director. “He exemplifies the best in PRIME-LC, and he will be a much-loved and respected physician in his community.”

Angulo graduates in May and begins his medical residency in July. Until then, he’ll be playing a gig with the reunited Romantic Torture on March 25 at Hollywood’s Whisky-a-Go-Go, and helping his fiancée of four years, Anabel Arroyo, prepare for medical school. She, naturally, wants to be a doctor, too.