Alpha Omega Alpha
The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, commonly called Alpha Omega Alpha and abbreviated ΑΩΑ or AOA, is a national honor society
Honor society
In the United States, an honor society is a rank organization that recognizes excellence among peers. Numerous societies recognize various fields and circumstances. The Order of the Arrow, for example, is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America...

 for medical students, residents
Residency (medicine)
Residency is a stage of graduate medical training. A resident physician or resident is a person who has received a medical degree , Podiatric degree , Dental Degree and who practices...

, scientists and physicians in the United States and Canada.


AOA was founded by 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
University of Illinois College of Medicine
The University of Illinois College of Medicine offers a four-year program leading to the MD degree at four different sites in Illinois: Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, and Urbana–Champaign....

. 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.

Root pitched his idea to nearby schools, and soon the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 and Northwestern University
Northwestern University
Northwestern University is a private research university in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois, USA. Northwestern has eleven undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools offering 124 undergraduate degrees and 145 graduate and professional degrees....

 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.


According to its constitution, "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."

Furthermore, according to Root himself the duties of AOA members are "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 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."

To this end, only the top medical students were elected, based on criteria such as grades, leadership, ethics, and so on. No more than one-sixth of a medical school's graduating class can be members of AΩA; most of these are elected as fourth-year students ("senior ΑΩΑ") although up to one-quarter of them may be elected as third-year students ("junior ΑΩΑ").

Membership importance

As the years have gone by, membership in ΑΩΑ has become highly sought after, especially for those applying to competitive residencies
Residency (medicine)
Residency is a stage of graduate medical training. A resident physician or resident is a person who has received a medical degree , Podiatric degree , Dental Degree and who practices...

. In many schools, students are ranked based on grades and USMLE Step 1 scores and the top one-sixth are inducted into the society, although this is in conflict with the national guidelines.

The importance of ΑΩΑ membership to residency applications varies among specialties and programs. For highly competitive specialties, it can offer a significant advantage. In some of the top residency programs for the most competitive fields, membership may be a de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

requirement in order to obtain a spot. A common view is suggested by Dr. Iserson: "Because it is found in most schools, AOA is the best-recognized medical school award. Students elected to the honorary are generally assured of serious consideration by residency programs. This means that many will get most of the interviews they desire. After that it will, of course, be up to them to do well in these interviews," (Iserson 205). Along with information such as name, telephone number, and e-mail address, membership in ΑΩΑ is one of the items on the first page of the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), the combined electronic application used by most residency programs in the United States.

Notable members

  • Albert L Hyman—educator, researcher, medical pioneer and world-renowned cardiopharmacologist, most notable for developing the pulmonary artery pressure probe used for measuring left heart pressure.
  • Lawrence H. Cohn
    Lawrence H. Cohn
    Lawrence H. Cohn, MD, is an American-born pioneering cardiac surgeon, researcher, and medical educator. He has been on the surgical staff at Harvard Medical School since 1971 and has been a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School since 1980...

    —world-renowned cardiac surgeon
    Cardiac surgeon
    A cardiac surgeon is a surgeon who performs cardiac surgery—operative procedures on the heart and great vessels.-Training:A cardiac surgery residency typically comprises anywhere from six to nine years of training to become a fully qualified surgeon...

    , medical pioneer, researcher, and educator
  • David H. Adams
    David H. Adams
    David H. Adams is an American cardiac surgeon and the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Professor and Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center....

    —internationally recognized as a leader in the field of heart valve surgery and mitral valve repair
    Mitral valve repair
    Mitral valve repair is a cardiac surgery procedure performed by cardiac surgeons to treat stenosis or regurgitation of the mitral valve. The mitral valve is the "inflow valve" for the left side of the heart. Blood flows from the lungs, where it picks up oxygen, through the pulmonary veins, to the...

  • Michael J. Reardon—internationally recognized as a leader in cardiac tumors, did the first successful cardiac auto transplant for primary cardiac malignancy
  • Dave Weldon
    Dave Weldon
    David Joseph Weldon, is an American politician and physician. He was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives, representing .-Early life:...

    —politician and physician
  • James P. Bagian
    James P. Bagian
    James Philip Bagian, MD, PE , born 22 February 1952 in Philadelphia, is an engineer and former NASA scientific astronaut. He is of Armenian descent.- Education :...

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

     astronaut and physician
  • Jerry M. Linenger
    Jerry M. Linenger
    Jerry Michael Linenger, M.D., M.S.S.M., M.P.H., Ph.D. is a former NASA astronaut, who flew on the Space Shuttle and Space Station Mir.-Background:...

     NASA astronaut and medical doctor
  • Robert G. Devenyi—Vitreoretinal Surgeon, University Professor, NHL Team Physician
  • Ben Carson
    Ben Carson
    Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson, Sr., M.D., is an American neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States by President George W...

    —noted African American
    African American
    African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

    Neurosurgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system including the brain, spine, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.-In the United States:In...

     and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
    Presidential Medal of Freedom
    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

  • David Satcher
    David Satcher
    David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D. FAAFP, FACPM, FACP is an American physician, and public health administrator. He was a four-star admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as the 10th Assistant Secretary for Health, and the 16th Surgeon General of the United...

    —10th Assistant Secretary for Health from 1998 to 2001 and the 16th Surgeon General of the United States
    Surgeon General of the United States
    The Surgeon General of the United States is the operational head of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and thus the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government...

     from 1998 to 2002
  • Otis R. Bowen
    Otis R. Bowen
    Otis Ray Bowen, M.D. is a retired U.S. politician and physician. He served as the 44th Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981 and as Secretary of Health and Human Services from 1985 to 1989.-Early life:...

    Governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981 and Secretary of Health and Human Services
    United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
    The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services is the head of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, concerned with health matters. The Secretary is a member of the President's Cabinet...

     from 1985 to 1989
  • Robert Provenzano
    Robert Provenzano
    Robert Provenzano is a prominent Detroit-area nephrologist. Provenzano is currently Chief of the Division of Nephrology, Hypertension & Transplantation, Director of Nephrology Research, and Director of Acute Dialysis Services at St John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit, MI...

  • Mary Ann McLaughlin
    Mary Ann McLaughlin
    Mary Ann McLaughlin, MD, MPH is an American cardiologist, the author of multiple book chapters and an Associate Professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City....

  • Gerald M. Edelman-Nobel Laureate
  • Steven M. Greer
    Steven M. Greer
    Steven M. Greer is an American physician and ufologist who founded the Orion Project and The Disclosure Project.-Biography:Greer claims that he is a contactee who has coined the term "close encounter of the fifth kind" to describe human-initiated contact with extraterrestrials.-The Disclosure...

    —physician and ufologist
  • Frank A. Chervenak
    Frank A. Chervenak
    Frank A. Chervenak, MD currently serves as Professor and Chairman, as well as the Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University....

  • Charles W. Hogue Jr.—anesthesiologist
    An anesthesiologist or anaesthetist is a physician trained in anesthesia and peri-operative medicine....

  • Robert A. Schwartz
    Robert A. Schwartz
    Robert A. Schwartz is an American physician and the discoverer of the Schwartz-Burgess Syndrome. He is a professor and the Head of the Department of Dermatology at New Jersey Medical School...

  • William Bennett Bean
    William Bennett Bean
    William Bennett Bean was a well-known internist, medical historian and teacher.-Biography:...

    —internist and medical historian
    History of medicine
    All human societies have medical beliefs that provide explanations for birth, death, and disease. Throughout history, illness has been attributed to witchcraft, demons, astral influence, or the will of the gods...

  • Marshall M. Parks
    Marshall M. Parks
    Marshall Miller Parks was an American ophthalmologist known to many as "the father of pediatric ophthalmology".-Early life:...

    —known to many as "the father of pediatric ophthalmology
    Pediatric ophthalmology
    Pediatric ophthalmology is a sub-speciality of ophthalmology concerned with eye diseases, visual development, and vision care in children.-Training:...

  • Rajeev Venkayya
    Rajeev Venkayya
    Dr. Rajeev Venkayya is the Director for Global Health Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he oversees late-stage development of health technologies and interventions as well as efforts to expand access to health solutions in the developing world. He reports to the President of...

    —Director for Global Health Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, founded by Bill and Melinda Gates. It is "driven by the interests and passions of the Gates family"...

  • Eric M. Genden
    Eric M. Genden
    Eric M. Genden is an American otolaryngologist with the distinction of being the first surgeon to perform a jaw transplant in the United States. It was also the first jaw transplant ever to combine donor jaw with bone marrow from the patient....

    —otolaryngologist with the distinction of being the first surgeon
    In medicine, a surgeon is a specialist in surgery. Surgery is a broad category of invasive medical treatment that involves the cutting of a body, whether human or animal, for a specific reason such as the removal of diseased tissue or to repair a tear or breakage...

     to perform a jaw
    The jaw is any opposable articulated structure at the entrance of the mouth, typically used for grasping and manipulating food. The term jaws is also broadly applied to the whole of the structures constituting the vault of the mouth and serving to open and close it and is part of the body plan of...

    Organ transplant
    Organ transplantation is the moving of an organ from one body to another or from a donor site on the patient's own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient's damaged or absent organ. The emerging field of regenerative medicine is allowing scientists and engineers to create organs to be...

     in New York State, and the first jaw transplant ever to combine donor jaw with bone marrow
    Bone marrow
    Bone marrow is the flexible tissue found in the interior of bones. In humans, bone marrow in large bones produces new blood cells. On average, bone marrow constitutes 4% of the total body mass of humans; in adults weighing 65 kg , bone marrow accounts for approximately 2.6 kg...

     from the patient
  • Harry A. Quigley—Most cited glaucoma researcher in peer reviewed journal articles over the past 30 years.
  • Jonas Salk
    Jonas Salk
    Jonas Edward Salk was an American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. He was born in New York City to parents from Ashkenazi Jewish Russian immigrant families...

    —Developer of the polio vaccine
  • Joshua Menke—Gifted and compassionate pathologist, first pathologist to lead the HEART Elective

Similar societies

  • Gold Humanism Honor Society
    Gold Humanism Honor Society
    The Gold Humanism Honor Society, commonly abbreviated GHHS, is a national honor society that honors senior medical students, residents, role-model physician teachers and other exemplars recognized for demonstrated excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to...

    , abbreviated "GHHS"
  • Sigma Sigma Phi
    Sigma Sigma Phi
    Sigma Sigma Phi abbreviated ΣΣΦ, and commonly called "SSP", is the national Osteopathic Medicine Honors Fraternity of the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine [D.O.]...

    , abbreviated "SSP", is the national Honorary Service fraternity of osteopathic medicine

  • Omega Beta Iota, abbreviated “ΩΒΙ,” is the National Osteopathic Political Action Honor Society.

Further reading

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

External links

  • ΑΩΑ national website
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