Alpha Omega Alpha
The mission of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society is to encourage high standards of scholarship among medical students, to enhance professionalism within medicine, and to encourage community and university service by all physicians and medical students.
Alpha Omega Alpha was founded in 1902 by a medical student, William Webster Root, and several of his classmates. (Root was also involved in the founding of the Association of College Honor Societies.) Steady growth of the society through the chartering of new chapters was facilitated by the encouragement of medical school faculties and deans. In 2000, Alpha Omega Alpha chapters in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon numbered 123.
Alpha Omega Alpha, a nonprofit society, is governed by a board of directors formed of twelve graduate members and three student members. Every chapter has a faculty councillor, secretary-treasurer, and a student president. The councillor is chosen by the dean. Chapters are organized into sixteen regions, each coordinated by a regional councillor.
Undergraduate medical students are elected by all members (residents, students, and faculty) at each institution. Students ranked academically in the top 25 percent of their graduating class are eligible for election, but only one-sixth of each class can be elected. The criteria, in addition to superior scholarship, include demonstration of collegiality, professionalism, service to the community, and promise for excellence as a practicing or academic physician. In addition to medical student members, each chapter may elect a limited number of faculty, alumni, and resident physicians at the institution. Honorary members may be nominated by any member of Alpha Omega Alpha; a number of those nominated are elected by the board. Honorary members are distinguished individuals not eligible for election by any other mechanism.
Upon payment of annual national dues, a member receives The Pharos (the Alpha Omega Alpha quarterly) and participates in supporting national programs. Lifetime membership is open to any member.
Each chapter is encouraged to sponsor service and educational projects within the medical school. The national office of Alpha Omega Alpha, located in Menlo Park, California, administers programs that include the following:
- Alpha Omega Alpha Student Research Fellowships. These are awarded yearly for investigative and mentored activities for students in medical schools with active chapters.
- The Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Awards. As many as four outstanding teachers from American medical schools are chosen by committees representing Alpha Omega Alpha and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The awards are presented each year at the annual meeting of the AAMC.
- Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Student Service Project Awards. Any student or group of students at each medical school with an active chapter may apply for financial support for service projects at the school or in the surrounding community.
- The Pharos. First published by Alpha Omega Alpha in 1938, The Pharos is the quarterly publication of Alpha Omega Alpha. Nonfiction, nontechnical articles, poetry, and photography relevant to medicine are reviewed by members of The Pharos editorial board.
- Alpha Omega Alpha Helen H. Glaser Student Essay Award. Any student at a medical school with an active chapter may submit a nonfiction essay on a nontechnical medical subject. Judged by members of The Pharos editorial board, winners receive a cash award and the essay is published in the quarterly.
- Leaders in American Medicine videotape series. Available for loan or purchase are more than 100 interviews of outstanding physicians in American medicine.
- Alpha Omega Alpha Visiting Professorships. This program is available to all active chapters. A respected physician is invited to spend up to two full days at the medical school, interacting with students and residents on rounds, giving specialty lectures, and often giving a special Alpha Omega Alpha lecture.
The only national honor society for medicine (with chapters at all but five U.S. medical schools), Alpha Omega Alpha continues to play a significant role in providing leadership in academia and the practice of medicine. Membership in Alpha Omega Alpha enhances a medical student's curriculum vitae, a vital part of the application for residency in all specialties.
EDWARD D. HARRIS JR.
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