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Alpha Omega Alpha

Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) is the national honor society for medical students. The three Greek letters AOA are initials of the essential words in the Greek version of the motto "Be worthy to serve the suffering."

Alpha Omega Alpha is "dedicated to the belief that in the profession of medicine we will improve care for all by: recognizing high educational achievement; honoring gifted teaching; encouraging the development of leaders in academia and the community; supporting the ideals of humanism; and promoting service to others."*

The values of the organization include "...honesty, honorable conduct, morality, virtue, unselfishness, ethical ideals, dedication to serving others, and leadership. Members have a compelling drive to do well and to advance the medical profession and exemplify the highest standards of professionalism."*

Representative activities of the Upstate Gamma Chapter in recent years include:

  1. Establishment and support of an annual Student Research Day
  2. Sponsorship of an annual AOA Visiting Professor.
  3. Academic support for undergraduates, including tutoring, review sessions prior to exams in the first two years, USMLE prep.
  4. Establishment and support of a student Clerkship Liaison program, a resource to clerkship students and directors.
  5. Establishment and sponsorship of the Helping Hands for Forgotten Feet Clinic.
  6. Leadership training for medical students at all levels.

Chapter members are actively engaged in ongoing leadership, scholarship, and service activities, and membership criteria are designed to support this active engagement.

AOA Members
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AOA Members

Criteria for Selection to AOA

Students who meet the following thresholds for performance measures in the graduation competencies are eligible to apply to AOA:

  • Medical Knowledge - pass USMLE Step 1 on the first attempt
  • Interpersonal and Interprofessional Communication Skills -score in the top half of the class on related clinical evaluation questions from the required clerkships
  • Patient Care - score in the top half of the class on related clinical evaluation questions from the required clerkships
  • Ethics and Professionalism - score in the top half of the class on related clinical evaluation questions from required clerkships, have had no formal professionalism concerns submitted, and there are no concerns about professional behavior among course and clerkship directors
  • Practice-based Learning and Improvement- score in the top half of the class on related clinical evaluation questions from required clerkships
  • Systems-based Practice and Population Health- pass Population Health on first attempt
  • General - should not have had significant academic difficulty leading to review by the Academic Review Board

In addition, students who receive an honors grade in 6 out of 7 graded clerkships are eligible to apply if they pass Step 1 on the first attempt and there are no concerns about professional behavior.

MS 1 and 2 performance and USMLE scores (other than passing on first attempt) are not used in determining eligibility. However, professional behavior across all years of the curriculum is used. The measures outlined above do not appear to be as influenced by the bias that exists in the use of standardized and MCQ examinations. Using these criteria, approximately half of each class will be eligible and invited to apply (e.g., 85 of a class of 170).

AOA Elections Process

By national AOA guidelines, up to 20% of each class may be elected and up to half of that total may be elected in the penultimate year; each school determines the % up to those limits. Upstate elects 10% at the end of the clerkship year and 10% in early fall of the last year.

  • All eligible students are invited to apply for membership at Upstate. Those who apply must complete an application form which requests information about their leadership, service, research/scholarship during medical school and responses to two open-ended questions. These are values of the national organization and values aligned to the mission of Upstate Medical University. These are the only factors considered in the election process; once a candidate is deemed eligible by the criteria listed above, academic performance is no longer weighted in the elections process.
  • Applications are blinded by a staff member who does not participate in reviewing or rating applications.
  • All blinded applications are then holistically screened for strength in the overall application by AOA officers and leaders. The strongest applications (approximately half of the total) are then reviewed in detail by individual faculty/student committees that review the components of the application (one group reviews leadership, one reviews service, etc.).
  • The final holistic review is made by representatives of these committees who review strength across the application as a whole.
  • Thus if 85 students are eligible and apply, all 85 applications are carefully screened, approximately 40-45 will be reviewed in detail and 17 will be elected at the end of the clerkship year. Another 40-45 will be reviewed in detail and elected in fall of the final year.

For questions please contact Patty Gooden, the Upstate Gamma Chapter Administrator,
or Chapter Councilor, Dr. Lynn Cleary, at (315) 464-5387.


(This information is also listed in the Student Handbook.)