Alpha Omega Alpha

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Founded in 1902 by William Root, a medical student at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago (now the University of Illinois), Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (AΩA) preserves the high ideals of medicine through a commitment to achievement, leadership, professionalism, teaching, service, and scholarship.

Alpha Omega Alpha currently has active chapters in 130 LCME accredited medical schools in the United States and Lebanon. It annually elects over 3,500 new members based on an election process that evaluates academics, professionalism, leadership, research, and service. The majority of new members are elected in their final year of medical school, but distinguished teachers, faculty members, 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 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 AΩA can be a lifetime honor, if the member chooses to remain active, and AΩA members are expected to conduct themselves with honesty, leadership, 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; and
  • Promoting service to others.

History[edit]

AOA 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 AΩA 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 AΩA: "The mission of AΩA 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 AΩA motto is, "Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering." Root defined the duties of AΩA 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." [1]


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.[2]

Purpose[edit]

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 importance[edit]

Membership in AΩA reflects a scholarly achievement, a demonstrated commitment to professionalism and leadership, and a dedication to community service. Induction to membership is limited one-sixth of graduating medical school students who have excelled academically, demonstrated professionalism, and show promise of becoming leaders in medicine.

AΩA 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 AΩA Chapters for their scholarly achievement, professional contributions, gifted teaching, and exemplary values demonstrated throughout their careers in medicine.

AΩA elections are held at the 130 AΩA Chapters, and overseen by the AΩA faculty Councilor. New members are expected to register with the national office and remain active by paying a modest dues annually.

12 National Programs and Awards[edit]

Medical students, faculty, and active AΩA members associated with AΩA Chapters are eligible to participate in the 12 national programs and awards that AΩA 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

AΩA Fellow in Leadership Award—Three $25,000 awards for active AΩA mid-career physicians development into future leaders in medicine

Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Awards—In partnership with the American Association of 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 AΩA 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

The Pharos[edit]

Alpha Omega Alpha first published its one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed medical humanities journal, in January 1938. The Pharos[3] 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 AΩA 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 AΩA journal."

—Faith T. Fitzgerald, MD[4]

Notable members[edit]

Similar societies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://alphaomegaalpha.org/history.html
  2. ^ "Alpha Omega Alpha Archives 1894–1992". National Library of Medicine. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ http://alphaomegaalpha.org/latest_issue.html
  4. ^ http://alphaomegaalpha.org/pharos_1999_fall_Fitzgerald.html
  5. ^ Daily News—"Jaw-Droppin' Op a Success" Retrieved April 30, 2008
  6. ^ Joe Holley. "D.C. Physician Illuminated The Ailments of Young Eyes." Washington Post. Sunday, August 21, 2005; Page C11.
  7. ^ "Sigma Sigma Phi National". Sigma Sigma Phi. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ [1] Archived July 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Political Affairs". Studentdo.com. July 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Iserson, Kenneth V. (2003). Iserson's Getting into a Residency (6th ed). Tucson: Galen Press.

External links[edit]