TOPGUN for medicine

Twenty-nine OUWB students inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society

An image of the AOA inductees and OUWB officials

Twenty-nine students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine were inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society on Oct. 24, 2023. Those who attended the event in person were part of a group photo. (Photo by Rob Hall)

icon of a calendarFeb. 1, 2024

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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Twenty-nine students from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine were recently inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society — bringing the total number from the school to nearly 200.

The latest inductees were from OUWB’s Class of 2024 and Class of 2025. It was the first time M3s were inducted at OUWB.

AOA is an international society recognizing students, alumni, and faculty who dedicate themselves to the medical profession. About 3,500 people are inducted into this society annually.

The father of Mackenzie Schmidt, an M4 inductee, compared the achievement of his daughter and the others to the best of the best pilots who serve in the U.S. Navy program known as TOPGUN and inspired movies of the same name.

An image showing the names of all the 2023 AOA inductees“This is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Michael Schmidt, M.D. “I’m a physician and to see my daughter excel like this is just incredible. I know how important AOA is…this is the top of the top…it’s TOPGUN for medicine.”

The students’ accomplishment was celebrated Oct. 24 at The Community House in Birmingham. Berkley Browne, Ph.D., and Pamela Benitez, M.D., AOA Delta Chapter Councilor and Secretary presented the inductees to an audience of about 100 people that included friends and families of the inductees.

Browne called it a “pleasure and privilege to be able to celebrate with you and your families all of the amazing things that you’ve achieved.”

Keynote speaker Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf Interim Dean, OUWB, talked about the students’ finding success despite COVID-19’s impact on the world as they began medical school.

“You’ve not just persevered, but you’ve succeeded,” said Carpenter. “You’ve shined and that’s something to be very proud of.”

Rasheed Abdullah, M4, was among the inductees.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I’m first generation so this feels like an incredible achievement. I’m happy and grateful to the committee, faculty, and staff who put this together.”

‘Special recognition’

AOA has 135 chapters in medical schools throughout the U.S. and has inducted more than 200,000 members since its founding in 1902.

More than 50 Nobel Prize winners in physiology, medicine and chemistry have been AOA members. More than 30 of those were elected to AOA prior to winning the Nobel Prize.

The AOA Delta Chapter dates to not long after OUWB welcomed its first class in 2011.

Jamie Vassel, coordinator, Student Affairs, OUWB, explained the process for inductees.

An image of Dr. Carpenter speaking at the AOA ceremony

Keynote speaker Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf Interim Dean, OUWB, talked about the students’ finding success despite COVID-19’s impact on the world as they began medical school.

First, students are invited to apply. Qualifying M4s must be in the top quartile of the class based on their first three years of medical school. For M3s, it’s the top 10% of the class and is based on the first two years of medical school. Quartiles are run in the beginning of August. (M3s who didn’t apply or weren’t accepted for induction in 2023 can still apply in their fourth year.)

For their applications, students are asked to list details about awards, leadership, community service, research publications and presentations, and involvement with professional organizations.

For 2023, a committee of 11 then reviewed applications. Any identifying information was removed by Vassel from applications, so committee members didn’t know who they were reviewing.

Committee members like Matthew Drogowski, M.D., ’19, OUWB — and a former AOA inductee — take the role seriously because of what it means to the future physicians.

“A lot of students have hard work that goes unrecognized so I think it’s great to have events like this where they can get special recognition,” he said. “Plus, us in medicine try to be humble people. We like to celebrate accomplishments, but don’t always like to tout them. This is one of those times when you feel OK about celebrating those accomplishments.”

A ‘humbling honor’

Near the end of the event, Benitez reminded inductees that being a member of AOA means much more than a CV highlight.

“What you’ve done to deserve this means you’ve done a lot more, and you’ve certainly given a lot to your community,” she said. “And that, to me, is so important as you move forward in your careers.”

“The qualities that embody an AOA physician will not only help that physician, but also his or her colleagues, (to) determine, create, and be the new future of medicine,” she added.

Afterwards, family members of inductees were all smiles.

M3 Erin Mueller’s mother and grandmother came from Florida to the event. Both expressed a tremendous amount of pride.

“I’m real happy and proud to be here to support my daughter who is working super hard,” said Stephanie Mueller, Erin’s mother. “She’s dedicated her life to this education and whenever she has down time, she is volunteering.”

Students expressed similar feelings of excitement.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” said M3 Amanda Bachand. “This was such an unexpected, but really humbling honor.”

M4 Jenny Nguyen said the induction meant a lot to her, too.

“Immigrating here as first gen and coming from a low-income family, there are a lot of obstacles that I felt like I had to go through,” she said. “To me, AOA means a lot of hard work and it also means gratitude because of my background.”

M4 Daniel Fortney called it “really special” to be in the company of “incredible classmates.”

He and others said they appreciated being recognized by OUWB at the special event.

“There are a lot of people in this classroom who have worked hard and are continuing to do so…I appreciated recognition for all of the incredible accomplishments and I’m sure the other students do as well,” said Fortney.

M4 Konstantinos Koustas echoed similar sentiments.

“This event means a great deal to us,” he said. “We started during the pandemic and were kind of disconnected. It’s nice to be able to celebrate what we’ve done together.”

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