The Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
, commonly called Alpha Omega Alpha
and abbreviated AΩA
, is a national honor society
for medical students, residents
, scientists and physicians in the United States.
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 at Chicago
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.
Root pitched his idea to nearby schools, and soon the University of Chicago and Northwestern University 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 AΩA 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." 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 AΩA") although up to one-quarter of them may be elected as third-year students ("junior AΩA").
As the years have gone by, membership in AΩA has become highly sought after, especially for those applying to competitive residencies
. 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 AΩA membership to residency applications varies among specialties and programs. For highly competitive specialties, it can offer a significant advantage. In some of the most competitive fields, membership may be a de facto 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 AΩA 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.
Psi Sigma Alpha is the National Honor Society of osteopathic medicine. The honor society recognizes the academic excellence of osteopathic students who are in the top 10%-15% of their class at the end of their second year of medical school.
Sigma Sigma Phi, abbreviated "SSP", is the national Service fraternity of osteopathic medicine
- AΩA national website
- Iserson, Kenneth V. (2003). Iserson's Getting Into a Residency (6th ed). Tucson: Galen Press.