Greg and Sally Palmer holding the Butterfly iQ, a hand-held ultrasound device, which can scan a person’s entire body and display the results on a smartphone. Steve Zylius / UCI

In scientific circles, the “butterfly effect” refers to a tiny action that triggers larger consequences down the road, such as the flutter of an insect’s wings in Brazil escalating into a tornado in Texas.

The phrase may also be an apt metaphor for what happened at UCI’s Aug. 9 White Coat Ceremony for incoming medical students.

The tale begins in January, when former kindergarten teacher Sally Palmer was treated for breast cancer at UCI Medical Center. Grateful for the care she received, Palmer and her husband, Greg, who founded GPalmer & Associates and sits on UCI Health’s advisory board, decided to give “a small token of appreciation” – $100,000 – to the medical school.

“We feel that everyone has an obligation to give back,” Sally Palmer explains. “Success doesn’t come from what we’ve done for ourselves but what we can do for others.”

The Palmers’ donation was used by Dr. Michael Stamos, dean of the UCI School of Medicine, to help purchase hand-held Butterfly iQ ultrasound devices for all 104 members of the class of 2023. The portable probes, which can scan a person’s entire body and display the results on a smartphone, are the latest manifestation of UCI’s 10-year-old iMedEd Initiative emphasizing digital and cutting-edge instruction, Stamos says.

Dr. Chris Fox, chair of UCI’s Department of Emergency Medicine, demonstrates the Butterfly iQ, a hand-held ultrasound device, at the 2019 White Coat Ceremony for incoming medical students, each of whom received one, thanks – in part – to donors Sally and Greg Palmer. AntMedia

In previous years, the medical school has distributed iPads and Google Glass spectacles to incoming students. At this year’s White Coat Ceremony, it became the first in America to equip an entire class with Butterfly iQs.

“As one of the earliest universities to get their hands on this device, we already had 25 Butterflies in the curriculum, and our students have been using them in the hospital, in the ER, in clinics and even internationally,” says Dr. Warren Wiechmann, associate dean of clinical science education and educational technology. “The experience of viewing ultrasound images of a live patient enables students to actively learn the wonders of the human body. The value is immeasurable.”

The Palmers hope their gift will have a long-lasting ripple effect. “Ultrasound cuts down on the time patients have to wait for answers,” Greg Palmer says. “It might even save lives. We’re very proud to help UCI students get this training from Day One.”

Adds Sally Palmer: “When students at the White Coat Ceremony received their ultrasound devices, they weren’t thrilled for themselves. They were thrilled because of what the machines can do for patients. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Watch to see the students’ reaction.

Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Medicine plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting