Alpha Omega Alpha
The University of Massachusetts Medical School was granted a Chapter of the honor medical society, Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) in 1996 (Delta of Massachusetts). Election to AOA is an honor in medical schools, comparable to election to Phi Beta Kappa as an undergraduate, and is the only National Medical Honor Society in the world.
Unlike other honors given out by the school at the time of graduation, election to AOA is accomplished in time to receive mention in the Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), which is used to evaluate graduating students applying for residency positions. AOA is an organization that performs service, as well as an honorary organization. Chapters in some schools are quite active in organizing community outreach and service programs, similar to other programs at UMass carried out by various student organizations.
A. Student Membership
To be eligible for election to AOA, students must be in the academic top quartile of the class. Determination of students in the upper quartile will be based on a combination of clinical grades and United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 Board scores; no grades from the first 2 years will be used. From among these students, up to 1/6th of the graduating class may then be elected to membership. For example, in a graduating class of 125, up to 31 are considered for membership, of whom up to 21 are then elected to membership by a vote of the AOA members at UMass Medical School (the “AOA selection committee.”) Election is based not only on academic performance, but also on qualities of character, contributions to medicine and society, and the promise of future achievements in medicine.
B. Faculty, Alumni and House Officer election to AOA.
In addition, a limited number of faculty (3), alumni (3) and house officers (4) can also be elected yearly. While national criteria also allow election of a limited number of students during their junior (third) year, UMass currently only elects students during the summer or early Fall preceding their graduating year.
C. The process of student election to AOA is as follows:
1. The names of students in the top quartile of the class are provided to the AOA selection committee by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, in collaboration as needed with the officers of AOA (president, vice president, secretary, councilor), in alphabetical (not ranked) order. The ranking list is then disposed of and not used for any other purpose.
2. The AOA selection committee, which is made up of current members of AOA from the faculty and house staff, is provided with information about each eligible student’s background, academic performance, and participation in extracurricular activities such as research, community service and medical school student and faculty activities (such as Student Body Committee or Medical School committees).
3. Election of new members is accomplished by vote of the AOA selection committee, after careful review based on this information and personal knowledge.
D. The process of Alumni, Faculty and House-Staff election to AOA
Up to three alumni members may be chosen by ballot from a list of UMass graduates who have graduated at least 10 years previously, have made significant contributions to medicine, science and/or the community, and have been nominated by AOA members. Up to three Faculty members may be also chosen by ballot from among those nominated by AOA members; and up to four house staff members may be chosen from those nominated by UMass program directors.
E. Volunteer Faculty Award
Each year the entire graduating class has the opportunity to select a volunteer (non-salaried) faculty member for a special award, given at the AOA awards ceremony prior to graduation.
F. Student Fellowships and Awards
Each year, all medical students in the first three years of medical school are eligible for several awards:
G. The Student Discretion Fellowship
Provides $5,000 for the support of a proposed research project, and $1,000 to travel to a meeting to present the results. The Medical School may submit one nomination; in past years many UMass students have successfully won these Fellowships.
H. The Medical Student Service Project Award
Any student or group of students in the first 3 years may submit an application for a service project benefiting the medical school or the community. The medical school can submit one proposal per year; successful candidates receive $2,000, and may renew for a second year for $1,000, or a 3rd year for $500. The applications must be submitted by January 30 2016, to be considered.
I. The Student Essay Award
This is an essay on any non-technical aspect of medicine, such as medical ethics, education, philosophy, culture, science, history, etc.
J. The Pharos Poetry Competition
Any student may submit a poem to AOA for publication in the Society’s magazine, “The Pharos.”
K. AOA Visiting Professorship
The UMass Alpha Omega Alpha chapter has the opportunity every year to invite a nationally distinguished physician to spend one day at the Medical Center, give a public talk and a scientific lecture, and visit with interested students and faculty. C. Everett Koop and Judah Folkman have been AOA visiting professors at UMass.