‘White Coats for Black Lives’ Movement

Demonstrators in white coats or scrubs and masks, Capitol in background
A group of more than 30 UConn medical and dental students, recent alumni, residents, and faculty took part in a “White Coats for Black Lives” demonstration June 6 in Hartford, which included a march from Pope Park to the state Capitol. (Photo by Sarita Arteaga)

A group of more than 30 UConn medical and dental students, recent alumni, residents, and faculty took part in a “White Coats for Black Lives” demonstration June 6 in Hartford, which included a march from Pope Park to the state Capitol.

Kodi Baldino, UConn School of Medicine Class of 2021, organizer

“As a person of color who has witnessed first-hand the deep-rooted distrust many in the black community have for the health care system, I recognize the importance of having health care providers present and advocating for equality and justice for black lives. #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives helps harness the privilege we have as health care providers to advocate and stand with communities of color during a time where there are obvious injustices that have yet to be reconciled. We hope to continue to grow the UConn Chapter of #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives, and continue standing by the communities we take and oath to serve as health care providers.”

Annie Abbate, UConn School of Medicine Class of 2021, organizer

“There were several factors that led to me being involved in organizing UConn’s #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives protests in Hartford. As a white person who is always working to improve and be a better white ally, it is important to me to find ways to leverage my privilege to dismantle racial inequity. As a future physician, I wanted the black members of our local community to know that we see you and we stand with you. We as health care providers see what is happening to people of color, what is being done to people of color, and we are outraged. Finally, on a selfish note, I needed to do something. I didn’t want to be home, inactive, with my thoughts and feelings, compulsively checking the news.”

Dr. Mariamma Chaluparambil ’20 (DMD), UConn dental resident

“There were hundreds of people at the march of all ages, genders, races, and walks of life. This was important for me to partake in for a multitude of reasons. It was my first time participating in a protest and it was truly moving to see so many people unite in support for our black community. It felt empowering to be able to take action for the community. It is often easy to be a bystander and after educating myself more on the recent attacks against black lives in this country as well as the history, I knew action was important. As future dental providers and physicians, we play a staple role in our community, and we can use our voices to help instill much needed change.”

Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students, UConn School of Dental Medicine

“As the associate dean for students my role is to advocate and mentor the students. As a faculty member, my role is to facilitate learning. I felt I needed to be present to support the students, but most especially as a person of color and a health care professional, this has impacted me personally and I saw the need to identify with the protests, bring to light the health care disparities and contribute to the change that is needed against racism.”

Dr. Santhanam Lakshminarayanan, chief, UConn Health Division of Rheumatology

“Nothing is more important right now than standing up for this. Absolutely nothing, not my life, not my work, nothing. This is the most important thing right now.… Absolutely, there are concerns about coronavirus and protests. Here’s the thing though: The coronavirus is going to do what it’s going to do. But we can change what we’re going to do. We can change how we think. The virus is killing us, but the virus of hate is killing us more. We can change the virus of hate, and that’s what we need to do.”