Alpha Omega Alpha
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Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (ΑΩΑ) is an honor society in the field of medicine.
Alpha Omega Alpha currently has active Chapters in 132 LCME accredited medical schools in the United States and Lebanon. It annually elects over 4,000 new members based on an election process that evaluates academics, professionalism, leadership, research, and community service. The majority of new members are elected in their final year of medical school, but distinguished teachers, faculty members, residents, and alumni can also be inducted into the society. All elections are held at local Chapters. No elections are held nationally.
Though initially modeled after, and often compared to Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society looks at more than academic standing. In many cases, a valedictorian has not been selected for membership due to his/her inability to meet the other necessary criteria. Membership into ΑΩΑ is a lifetime honor, if the member chooses to remain active, and ΑΩΑ members are expected to conduct themselves with honesty, leadership, Integrity, morality, virtue, altruism, ethics, and dedication to serving others.
The organization's mission statement:
Alpha Omega Alpha — dedicated to the belief that in the profession of medicine we will improve care for all by:
- Recognizing high educational achievement
- Honoring gifted teaching
- Encouraging the development of leaders in academia and the community
- Supporting the ideals of humanism
- Promoting service to others
ΑΩΑ was founded in 1902 by William Webster Root and five other medical students at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which later became the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The impetus for its formation was the generally poor quality of American medical schools and students at the time; Root and his colleagues wished to promote excellence in these groups. They decided that membership in ΑΩΑ was to be based on both scholarly achievement and professional conduct.
Root pitched his idea to nearby schools, and soon the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine had set up chapters, too. Ten years later, there were seventeen chapters. As more medical schools became interested, the national organization was able to become more selective in the standards a school had to meet to be eligible. Soon, it became a mark of prestige to have an ΑΩΑ chapter at one's school.
Root stated in the original constitution of ΑΩΑ: "The mission of ΑΩΑ is to encourage high ideals of thought and action in schools of medicine and to promote that which is the highest in professional practice." The ΑΩΑ motto is, "Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering." Root defined the duties of ΑΩΑ members, "to foster the scientific and philosophical features of the medical profession, to look beyond self to the welfare of the profession and of the public, to cultivate social mindedness, as well as an individualistic attitude toward responsibilities, to show respect for colleagues, especially for elders and teachers, to foster research and in all ways to ennoble the profession of medicine and advance it in public opinion. It is equally a duty to avoid that which is unworthy, including the commercial spirit and all practices injurious to the welfare of patients, the public, or the profession." 
Collections of the society's papers were donated to the National Library of Medicine in 1973 by John Z. Bowers, and in 2000 by Gladys Brill Brampton.
The current constitution states that, "Alpha Omega Alpha is organized for educational purposes exclusively and not for profit, and its aims shall be the promotion of scholarship and research in medical schools, the encouragement of a high standard of character and conduct among medical students and graduates, and the recognition of high attainment in medical science, practice, and related fields."
To this end, only the top medical students are elected, based on criteria such as grades, leadership, professionalism, and ethics. After securing the students permission, a first cut is made and the top academic quartile is evaluated. Of that group, one-sixth of a medical school's graduating class can be elected members of ΑΩΑ. Most are elected as fourth-year students ("senior ΑΩΑ") although a smaller amount of third-year students ("junior ΑΩΑ") are eligible for election.
Membership in ΑΩΑ reflects a scholarly achievement, a demonstrated commitment to professionalism and leadership, and a dedication to community service. Induction to membership is limited to one-sixth of graduating medical school students who have excelled academically, demonstrated professionalism, and show promise of becoming leaders in medicine.
ΑΩΑ membership is recognized by medical institutions and practices around the world, and offers an advantage for members applying for residencies, fellowships and permanent career positions. Faculty, alumni, and residents can be elected to ΑΩΑ Chapters for their scholarly achievement, professional contributions, gifted teaching, and exemplary values demonstrated throughout their careers in medicine.
ΑΩΑ elections are held at the 130 ΑΩΑ Chapters, and overseen by the ΑΩΑ faculty Councilor. New members are expected to register with the national office and remain active by paying a modest dues annually.
ΑΩΑ elections at some institutions have been plagued by internal political and racial bias. A 2017 publication in JAMA Internal Medicine found that "Black and Asian medical students were less likely than their white counterparts to be members of ΑΩΑ, which may reflect bias in selection. In turn, ΑΩΑ membership selection may affect future opportunities for minority medical students." This pattern persisted despite controlling for other co-variates such as extracurricular activities. Because "the Constitution of ΑΩΑ gives many degrees of freedom to each chapter for the process of election of student members", election to ΑΩΑ remains incredibly variable between medical schools and may reflect the local chapter's internal politics rather than academic achievement. While many of the most elite American medical schools have completely done away with student chapters of ΑΩΑ, the most high profile is the decision of the Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine to completely forgo medical student elections to ΑΩΑ in September of 2018.
12 National Programs and Awards
Medical students, faculty, and active ΑΩΑ members associated with ΑΩΑ Chapters are eligible to participate in the 12 national programs and awards that ΑΩΑ confers annually. The programs and awards are funded from member annual and lifetime dues.
Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowships—More than 50 Fellowships of $5,000 each with a $1,000 travel stipend to present findings at a national or international conference
ΑΩΑ Fellow in Leadership Award—Three $25,000 awards for active ΑΩΑ mid-career physicians development into future leaders in medicine
Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Awards—In partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) four Distinguished Teachers received $10,000 each year, their medical school receives $2,500, and their Chapter receives $1,000
Postgraduate Awards—Ten awards of $2,000 to support residents or fellows with a project in the spirit of the ΑΩΑ mission
Medical Student Service Leadership Project Awards—$9,000 over three years to support service leadership projects that benefit the medical school and/or its local community
Helen H. Glaser Student Essay Awards—Monetary first, second and third place prizes and publication in The Pharos for medical student essays about medicine or health
The Pharos Poetry Competition—Monetary first, second and third place prizes and publication in The Pharos for medical student poems about medicine or health
Edward D. Harris Professionalism Award—A $10,000 award for institutions that represent best practices in medical professionalism
Moser Award—A $4,500 writing prize for an essay, written by a physician, that celebrates the life of a physician, like Dr. Moser, who has enriched the world
Administrative Recognition Award—Councilors can recognize the invaluable work performed by administrative personnel to keep the Chapter running smoothly with a framed certificate of recognition and $500 award
Visiting Professorships—Each of the 130 medical school Chapters may host one visiting professor each year to conduct grand rounds and hold various special presentation during a one-day visit
Volunteer Clinical Faculty Awards—Available to all 130 medical school Chapters to recognize clinical faculty in community practices devoted to teaching medical students and residents
Alpha Omega Alpha first published its one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed medical humanities journal, in January 1938. The Pharos is named after the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Produced quarterly, with a print run of 50,000, and online readership of 35,000, The Pharos is sent quarterly to all active ΑΩΑ members, select medical libraries, institutions and associations, and contains articles, scholarly essays, and poetry on a wide array of nontechnical medical subjects including current events, medical history, art, and medical-related literature.
The Pharos serve as a beacon for the medical humanities - humanness, medical history, ethics, literature, law and politics, art, poetry, music, language, philosophy, and culture.
"In an age of rapidly evolving technology and forced efficiency, The Pharos continues to emphasize the artistic, the literary, and the place of music, language, and culture in medicine. Although themes may shift—now touching upon the economics or the ethics of times—humanism is the enduring content of our ΑΩΑ journal."
—Faith T. Fitzgerald, MD
- T. Berry Brazelton - Pediatrician and author
- Ben Carson – Neurosurgeon and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
- David H. Adams – Internationally recognized as a leader in the field of heart valve surgery and mitral valve repair
- Alfred Blalock—Cardiac Surgeon (Blalock–Taussig shunt)
- Maurice Brodie - polio researcher
- David Satcher – 10th Assistant Secretary for Health from 1998 to 2001 and the 16th Surgeon General of the United States from 1998 to 2002
- Dave Weldon – Politician and physician
- Gerald M. Edelman—Nobel Laureate
- Eric M. Genden – Otolaryngologist with the distinction of being the first surgeon to perform a jaw transplant in New York State, and the first jaw transplant ever to combine donor jaw with bone marrow from the patient
- Frank A. Chervenak
- James P. Bagian – NASA astronaut and physician
- Jeffrey Gusky – Explorer and emergency physician
- Howard A. Howe - virologist, polio researcher
- David A. Karnofsky, medical oncologist known for the Karnofsky score
- L. Scott Levin, MD, FACS. Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at The University of PA
- Jerry M. Linenger – NASA astronaut and medical doctor
- Jock McKeen – Physician, acupuncturist, co-founder of the Haven Institute
- Jonas Salk – Developer of the polio vaccine
- Kenneth Kaushansky – MD, MACP, Hematologist, Dean of Stony Brook Medicine
- Lawrence H. Cohn – Cardiac surgeon, researcher, and educator
- Marshall M. Parks – Known to many as "the father of pediatric ophthalmology".
- Mary Ann McLaughlin – Cardiologist
- Otis R. Bowen – Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981 and Secretary of Health and Human Services from 1985 to 1989
- Paul Kalanithi – Neurosurgeon and writer
- Percy Wootton – Former President of the American Medical Association
- Robert A. Schwartz – Dermatologist
- Robert Provenzano – Nephrologist
- Steven M. Greer – Physician and ufologist
- William Bennett Bean – Internist and medical historian
- Daniel Roses - Surgeon and Educator, Jules Leonard Whitehill Professor of Surgery and Oncology of the New York University School of Medicine
- Harry Schachter - Canadian biochemist
- Rahul M. Jindal - Indian-American transplant surgeon known for setting up a renal replacement therapy program which led to the only comprehensive kidney transplant and dialysis program in Guyana.
- Gold Humanism Honor Society, abbreviated "GHHS"
- Phi Beta Kappa
- Phi Kappa Phi
- Sigma Xi
- Sigma Sigma Phi, abbreviated "SSP", the national Honorary Service fraternity of osteopathic medicine
- Omega Beta Iota, abbreviated "ΩΒΙ", the National Osteopathic Political Action Honor Society
- "Alpha Omega Alpha Archives 1894–1992". National Library of Medicine.[permanent dead link]
- Boatright, Dowin; Ross, David; O'Connor, Patrick; Moore, Edward; Nunez-Smith, Maricella (1 May 2017). "Racial Disparities in Medical Student Membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society". JAMA Intern Med (5): 659–665.
- Gordon, Mara (5 September 2018). "A Medical School Tradition Comes Under Fire For Racism". NPR. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- Daily News—"Jaw-Droppin' Op a Success" Retrieved April 30, 2008
- Joe Holley. "D.C. Physician Illuminated The Ailments of Young Eyes." Washington Post. Sunday, August 21, 2005; Page C11.
- "Walter Reed doctors perform Guyana's first kidney transplant". US Army. 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
- "History in the making… Guyana's first kidney transplant". Kaieteur News. 2008-07-13. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
- "Sigma Sigma Phi National". Sigma Sigma Phi. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
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- Iserson, Kenneth V. (2003). Iserson's Getting into a Residency (6th ed). Tucson: Galen Press.