Bryce Spitze and Brenda Campos-Spitze
Bryce Spitze and Brenda Campos-Spitze, the first married couple to enter UCI's School of Medicine, were given their first physician's white coats at an Aug. 8 ceremony for the incoming class. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

Bryce Spitze and Brenda Campos-Spitze want to help heal the U.S. healthcare system. And they plan to do it together.

The first married couple to enter UC Irvine’s medical school is among an incoming class of 104 students — which include a former professional ballet dancer, an Americorps volunteer, a doctoral researcher from UCI’s Calit2 program and a member of the Anteaters’ 2009 national championship men’s volleyball team — who participated Aug. 8 in a revered event welcoming them into the world of medicine, the White Coat Ceremony.

Before hundreds of family members and friends in the Irvine Barclay Theatre, the students received traditional physician’s coats and recited the Oath for Doctors of Medicine, where they pledged to “practice medicine for people rather than things.”

Certain aspects of the ritual, which heralds a lifelong commitment to compassionate patient care, date back to the beginning of medical education, but the future for these new students will be marked by dramatic changes in the healthcare marketplace fueled by current reform efforts.

Spitze and Campos-Spitze intend to play a role in an emerging healthcare system designed to provide affordable, quality care for all, and their medical school experience at UCI will help prepare them to make a difference.

The couple were accepted to the Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community. Designed to produce physician-leaders who can address the distinctive healthcare needs of underserved populations, PRIME-LC requires its students to pursue a supplemental master’s degree in business, public policy or public health to help prepare them for future leadership roles.

In addition, the two plan to take part in efforts sponsored by the recently created Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, through which students can participate in outreach clinics and programs that provide assistance to people who have little or no access to affordable, quality care.

Before stepping foot into their first medical school classroom, Spitze and Spitze-Campos got to see the California healthcare landscape firsthand last month. In a tour of the San Joaquin Valley, their incoming PRIME-LC class visited a Fresno-area healthcare center serving migrant farm workers and met with state legislative and governor’s staff at the Capitol to get a “cool introduction to the basics of healthcare policy,” Campos-Spitze says.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” she adds. “We met lots of people in healthcare and in government who have the same ideals and goals that we do. We learned about some of the ins and outs about healthcare policy and how to get your foot in the door to make change. And we do plan on getting our feet in the door someday.”

Campos-Spitze, a biological sciences major, had always planned to attend medical school. Her husband, a Spanish and international relations major, made the decision before their senior year. They married after graduation from UC Davis in 2007.

“We came from different places, but we want to go in the same direction together,” he says. “We really complement each other and can attack the same problem from different angles.”

The two plan to pursue different master’s degrees and medical specialties and combine their knowledge to start a clinical practice for underserved Latinos. Spitze also sees a future in the policy and business sides of healthcare.

“How can you make systemic changes if you can’t talk to politicians and business leaders?” he says. “We need to change our value system for healthcare.”

“In this time of healthcare reform, it’s so exciting to be starting medical school,” Campos-Spitze adds. “I’m very optimistic about the future.”