Website encourages doctors and students to celebrate their identities beyond the white coats
By Debby Teich
Photography by Tim Klein
Brothers Jason Onugha, M.D. ’20, M.P.H. ’20, a third-year psychiatry resident, and Harris Onugha, M.D. ’21, M.P.H. ’21, a second-year pediatric resident
eceiving a white coat in medical school marks the start of a highly anticipated, rewarding chapter, as well as of a rigorous and challenging journey. Two people who know those challenges firsthand have created a platform aimed at helping those new doctors find balance.
Brothers Jason Onugha, M.D. ’20, M.P.H. ’20, a third-year psychiatry resident, and Harris Onugha, M.D. ’21, M.P.H. ’21, a second-year pediatric resident, started Without The White Coat (WTWC), an organization dedicated to humanizing medicine and strengthening the medical community.
Jason and Harris grew up around family members who worked in health-related fields, including their parents, who emigrated from Nigeria and became pharmacists. Influenced by their accomplished community, the brothers developed a love of science at an early age and started at the Miller School together.
By their second year, they were consumed by their studies and spent little time doing the things outside of medicine that fulfilled them, like exercising, listening to music and connecting with friends and family. Recognizing this was a problem for their classmates as well, they began brainstorming ways to find greater balance.
In 2017, they launched WTWC to promote wellness, encourage individuality and creativity, address mental health stigma and advocate for diversity. They built a template on Instagram, asking followers to share two photos — one of them in medical attire and another showing them doing something they were passionate about — and to write about their identity without the white coat. There was instant response.
“We got a wide array of answers that we had not even considered,” said Jason. “We knew it was time to expand our efforts.”
In 2020, they launched a website that includes personal stories expressed through written or artistic media. Last year they added a section called “Dear Interns,” where residents and attendings could share their wisdom with incoming interns to ease the transition from medical school to residency. More than 600 people have shared their stories.
“We started by creating conversations in the Miami area and they are now happening across the globe,” said Harris. “We must bring more awareness to mental health and other contemporary issues in medicine.”
The brothers continue to search for new ways to spread their message. They are encouraged by other medical schools that have created similar platforms for their own students and hope to see similar offerings at hospitals and other health care facilities.
To read featured stories or share your story, visit www.withoutthewhitecoat.com.