On March 17, some 28,000 graduating medical students around the country – including 97 at UCI – participated in annual Match Day ceremonies, at which they learned where their careers as physicians will start.

For UCI’s Krystal Jimenez and Miguel Alvarez-Estrada, this day was especially memorable, because it was one they shared. They went to both college and medical school together and plan to become doctors as a team.

But first they’ll be getting married, on May 28, and graduating, on June 3. And then, on July 1, they will begin family medicine residencies at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, Calif. – their first choice of programs.

“We’ve had an amazing and unbelievable experience in medical school,” Jimenez says. “Now we want to realize our dreams.”

She and Alvarez-Estrada joined their School of Medicine classmates in the courtyard in front of the Medical Education Building for the festive, emotional event. As part of UCI’s tradition, its future doctors are called randomly to a podium – one at a time – to open an envelope and read aloud before hundreds of family members, friends and classmates the name and location of the hospital where they’ll spend the next three to seven years pursuing postgraduate medical training as a resident physician.

Upon reaching the podium, each student places a dollar bill in a doctor’s satchel that belonged to Dr. Robert Brown, who had received it as a gift from his father upon earning his doctorate in 1951 from the osteopathic school that eventually evolved into the UCI School of Medicine. The last student summoned to the podium collects all the cash as compensation for having to wait the longest. This year, Hansel Ihn, who will take an orthopedic surgery residency at USC, won the pot.

Overall, more than two-thirds of the UCI class matched with programs in California; 15 will be staying home, having landed residency positions at UCI.

The PRIME-LC difference

After earning bachelor’s degrees at UCLA, Jimenez and Alvarez-Estrada entered UCI’s Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community. A joint, five-year master’s-M.D. program, PRIME-LC is the first of its kind specifically designed to meet the distinctive needs of Latinos, and it’s a model for similar endeavors across the country.

PRIME-LC students are expected to become physician-leaders, a role Jimenez and Alvarez-Estrada hope to fulfill in family medicine. Besides medical degrees, she will soon complete a master’s in biomedical & translational science, while he’s finishing up an MBA, and they look forward to merging these research and leadership skills in a medical practice.

“We love the full-spectrum opportunities that family medicine provides,” Alvarez-Estrada says. “We can treat all walks of people, from children to the elderly, and through family medicine we can make a bigger impact in community outreach and social justice, which are passions of ours.”

In the meantime, they have a wedding and graduation coming up. “It will be,” he says, “a time for family and celebration.”