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Alpha Omega Alpha

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Alpha Omega Alpha
The crest of Alpha Omega Alpha
Founded1902; 122 years ago (1902)
University of Illinois College of Medicine
TypeHonor society
Former AffiliationACHS
Colors  Green,   Gold and   White
PublicationMedical Professionalism Best Practices (series)
   The Pharos
Members4,000 collegiate
200,000 lifetime
Headquarters12635 E. Montview Blvd.
Suite 270

Aurora, Colorado 80045
WebsiteOfficial website

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. The majority of these individuals are chosen in their final year of medical school, though the society also inducts distinguished teachers, faculty members, residents, and alumni. Local chapters hold all elections, and the society does not hold any national elections.


In 1902, William Webster Root founded ΑΩΑ with five other medical students while they were attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the University of Illinois College of Medicine). ΑΩΑ was founded to recognize both excellence in both scholarly achievement and professional conduct among physicians and medical students.[1]

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. By 1912, there were seventeen chapters. As more medical schools became interested, the national organization became more selective in the standards a school had to meet to be eligible.


The original constitution of ΑΩΑ states that its mission is to encourage high ideals of thought and action in medical schools, promoting the highest standards of professional practice. The ΑΩΑ motto is "Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering." The duties of ΑΩΑ members include fostering the scientific and philosophical aspects of the medical profession, promoting the welfare of the profession and the public, cultivating social awareness and individual responsibility, showing respect for colleagues, promoting research, uplifting the medical profession and advancing public opinion. It specifies that its members are to avoid any practices that are unworthy, including commercialism and any practices that may harm the welfare of patients, the public, or the profession.[2]

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.[3]


The current constitution states that "Alpha Omega Alpha is organized exclusively for educational purposes and not for profit. 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."[4]

Alpha Omega Alpha (ΑΩΑ)- Information Board present at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, USA

To this end, only those who are considered the top medical students are elected; however, the definition of "top" is left to the individual medical school chapters to determine.


ΑΩΑ elections at some institutions have been influenced 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."[5] This pattern persisted despite controlling for other variables, such as extracurricular activities.

Many American medical schools do not have student chapters of ΑΩΑ. For example, Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine decided to completely forgo medical student elections to ΑΩΑ in September 2018.[6] Additionally, there are no ΑΩΑ chapters at Harvard, Yale, or Mayo Clinic.[7]

National programs and awards[edit]

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, which are funded from member dues.[8][9]

The Pharos[edit]

Alpha Omega Alpha first published its medical humanities journal in January 1938, "The Pharos", named after the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.[10]

"The Pharos," a quarterly booklet with a print run of 50,000 and online readership of 35,000, is sent to ΑΩΑ members, select medical libraries, institutions and associations. The booklet contains articles, essays, and poetry from the community.

Notable members[edit]

Similar societies[edit]


  1. ^ "Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society | MD Program". medicine.uiowa.edu. Archived from the original on 2023-11-10. Retrieved 2023-11-10.
  2. ^ "Alpha Omega Alpha - ΑΩΑ's History". Archived from the original on 2016-08-02. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  3. ^ "Alpha Omega Alpha Archives 1894–1992". National Library of Medicine.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Constitution". Alpha Omega Alpha. Retrieved 2023-11-05.
  5. ^ 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. 177 (5): 659–665. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9623. PMC 5818775. PMID 28264091. Archived from the original on 2 October 2023. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  6. ^ Gordon, Mara (5 September 2018). "A Medical School Tradition Comes Under Fire For Racism". NPR. Archived from the original on 10 April 2024. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Chapters". Alpha Omega Alpha. Retrieved 2022-08-26.
  8. ^ "National Awards". USU AOA. Archived from the original on 2023-11-05. Retrieved 2023-11-05.
  9. ^ "AΩA Programs". Alpha Omega Alpha. Archived from the original on 2023-11-05. Retrieved 2023-11-05.
  10. ^ "Alpha Omega Alpha - Latest Issue". Archived from the original on 2016-08-11. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  11. ^ "Surgeons General". Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. Archived from the original on 11 May 2020. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  12. ^ Daily News—"Jaw-Droppin' Op a Success" Archived 2020-05-13 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved April 30, 2008
  13. ^ "Walter Reed doctors perform Guyana's first kidney transplant". US Army. 2008-08-22. Archived from the original on 2019-06-07. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  14. ^ "History in the making… Guyana's first kidney transplant". Kaieteur News. 2008-07-13. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  15. ^ Joe Holley. "D.C. Physician Illuminated The Ailments of Young Eyes." Archived 2017-07-31 at the Wayback Machine Washington Post. Sunday, August 21, 2005; Page C11.
  16. ^ "Representative Jane Pringle". legislature.maine.gov. Archived from the original on 2024-02-06. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  17. ^ "Michael J. Stuart, M.D." Mayo Clinic. 2022. Archived from the original on March 14, 2023. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  18. ^ "Sigma Sigma Phi National". Sigma Sigma Phi. Archived from the original on November 14, 2021. Retrieved June 20, 2012.
  19. ^ [1] Archived July 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Political Affairs". Studentdo.com. July 22, 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 2011-09-17.

External links[edit]