Immigrant twins who picked grapes in California graduate from medical school one day apart

Immigrant twins graduate from medical school

There is no one path to graduation — and no pair knows that better than Octavio and Omar Viramontes, twin brothers who graduated from Harvard and UCLA Medical school, respectively, just one day apart.

Octavio and Omar's family moved from Mexico to central California when they were 10 to chase the American dream, which for newly arrived immigrants meant picking grapes in the fields and selling produce door to door.

"The first year it was tough. We hated it," Omar said. "But we started to realize that we were doing this for a specific reason, and it was to help our family, to help each other."

Their parents helped them, too. Their mother introduced them to the town library and taught them that education was the most valuable currency.

"Every single time I entered that library, I was entering a different world by reading a different book," Octavio said. "It gave me the imagination to be somewhere else."

The twins aced their classes, and graduated high school sharing the coveted title of valedictorian. Octavio went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree, and Omar attended the University of California San Diego – both on full scholarships. Then, they both decided to become doctors.  

"When I saw that UCLA had offered me admission, a full-ride scholarship, I was very ecstatic," Omar said.

"Why would they pick someone from a small town of 5,000 people to go to Harvard Medical School?" Octavio said. "I remember refreshing the page, I guess making sure that you know it was addressed to the right person, and to me."

Omar added that he takes his parent's sacrifices "seriously" – and that he uses them as fuel. "Every day I wake up and I think, 'What can I do today to make myself better, my family better and my community?'"