Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society

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2014 Medical Student Service Leadership Project Award winners

Alpha Omega Alpha is committed to preparing future leaders in medicine and health care. Leadership is about making a positive difference, and is learned through education, observation, and experience, and working with leader mentors. Service leadership may develop an excellent opportunity for students to develop as servant leaders. The most effective leaders are well grounded in and committed to positive professional values.

AΩA developed this award to support leadership development for medical students through mentoring, observation, and service learning.

Amount of the award: $5000 for the first year, $3000 for the second year, $1000 for the third year

The winners of this year's award are:


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine—Medical Students at UNC Leading, Teaching and Interacting with the Community (MULTI)

Over the past 50 years, the concept of multi-disciplinary care has become standard for patients with certain disease processes in which more than one medical discipline has expertise. Multidisciplinary team care offers unique advantages to patients, health care providers, and medical students. At UNC, the Head and Neck Tumor Board, North Carolina Children's Airway Center, and Craniofacial Team are some examples of this concept at work. In addition to providing benefit to patients, these teams of specialists offer a distinct opportunity for medical student leadership development. Currently, no course at UNC School of Medicine is offered in leadership or multidisciplinary care. Therefore, a unique occasion exists to pilot a medical student course which would allow students to gain valuable experience in managing complex medical and psychosocial issues while also developing essential leadership skills as a part of one of these sophisticated health care teams. Our service leadership proposal involves three parts:

  1. developing a curriculum for a new elective in multidisciplinary care
  2. starting and leading an interest group in leadership in multi-disciplinary care for medical students
  3. establishing medical student participation in a formal leadership course.
Multidisciplinary Care Elective

The elective will serve as the first component of our program and will be designed to expose students to the intricacies of multidisciplinary care through active involvement in all aspects of one of the multidisciplinary teams already established at UNC. Students rotating on the elective will be able to choose a specific track (i.e. Head and Neck Tumor Board, Pediatric Airway Center, or Craniofacial Center) or a combination of these. They will develop a formal educational curriculum with selected readings on different aspects of care management and leadership. Student team members will pilot this elective as the first participants this upcoming academic year.

Interest Group in Leadership

The interest group, entitled “Leadership in Multidisciplinary Care,” will be a foundation point for organization of community outreach efforts and speakers on leadership. The AΩA UNC Gamma Chapter will take a leadership role in the organization and maintenance of this interest group, inviting speakers for conversations about leadership and multidisciplinary care, with an expected four speakers recruited annually. In addition, it is through this interest group that community outreach efforts will be organized. In keeping with the focus of the interest group, community outreach events will be centered on multidisciplinary care. The interest group serves as an avenue to which the entire medical student body can effectively be involved with leadership development and service events; we anticipate large participation from 1st and 2nd year medical students.

ACCLAIM Leadership Course

The final part of the proposal involves having the student team members of this proposal participate in an ongoing formal leadership course in the School of Medicine, entitled ACCLAIM (Academic Career Leadership Academy in Medicine). This recently added leadership course is entering its third year at UNC. The goals of the program include promoting leadership and management development training, enhancing strategic thinking, problem-solving and negotiation skills, and providing mentoring and academic counseling. The program also includes a retreat where participants study the latest models and frameworks for leadership, participate in exercises that demonstrate leadership styles, learn from the leadership skills and approaches of their peers, and develop their own actionable individual leadership development plan. This grant provides the opportunity for extension to medical students and simultaneously opens the doors to allow further participation by medical students in the coming years.

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Indiana University School of Medicine—Boys and Girls Club-Indiana University School of Medicine Partnership Program

AΩA Alpha of Indiana and the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) Medical Student Council (MSC) are partnering with the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) of America in nine cities around the state of Indiana - Indianapolis, Gary, South Bend, Muncie, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, Bloomington, Terre Haute, and Evansville. The newly-established Boys and Girls Club/IUSM Partnership Program (BIPP) exposes IUSM students throughout the state of Indiana to underserved youth and engages students at all nine IUSM campuses in civic leadership through the organization of events in collaboration with each respective Boys and Girls Club.

The initial idea for their project budded from the action of a second-year medical student, Samer Kawak, at the IUSM-Northwest campus. His idea was warmly received by AΩA Alpha of Indiana members and the IUSM MSC following the success of a year-long pilot partnership of event-based mentoring between students at IUSM-Northwest and mentees at the BGC of Gary/Merrillville, IN.

AΩA Alpha of Indiana, the IUSM MSC, and IUSM student body will use funding from the AΩA MSSLP Award to promote improvements in BCG children’s knowledge and health literacy in areas including, but not limited to, physical activity, injury prevention, diet, social relationships, positive behavioral choices, bullying, mental and sexual health, and prescription/illicit drug use. Their initial educational project will focus on bicycle safety and traumatic brain injury in sports along with the distribution of approximately 300 free bicycle helmets.

In order to accommodate the variable needs of nine different Indiana BGC Chapters, there is and will continue to be a significant opportunity for character and leadership development at the IUSM campuses. Programming novel activities for the BCG mentees will require the active use of executive functioning skills including decision-making, social interaction, planning, troubleshooting, and compassionate leadership which will allow the students to development robust, practical leadership intelligence.

IUSM faculty Drs. Mitchell Harris and Kathleen Boyd are serving as advisors for the project and overseeing a leadership development and service-learning curriculum. A journal club will meet every other month where BIPP student leaders will discuss articles pertaining to leadership and service-learning and reflect on BIPP and medical leadership at large. During months opposite the journal club, guests from the IUSM and Indianapolis community will speak on their personal experiences with service-learning and leadership.

In February 2014, AΩA Alpha of Indiana member Lori Myers and IUSM MSIII Samer Kawak travelled to Miami to present the BIPP concept at the Annual University of Miami Department of Community Services Conference. In March, American Medical Association students from around the Midwest collaborated with the Indianapolis BIPP chapter for a morning of health education at a local Boys and Girls Club. Other IUSM student interests groups are also taking notice and planning joint projects with BIPP.

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University of Miami Miller School of Medicine—Medical Students without Borders (MSB) Leadership Project

With the advent of telemedicine, electronic health records, and a rapid increase in international travel, medical professionals are extending treatment beyond borders to reach patients throughout the world. The Miami Students without Borders (MSB) Leadership Program, a four-year global health leadership program for UM medical students, will create physicians who are able to act as leaders not just within their local communities, but also within the global community that the evolution of medicine demands. The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is particularly tailored for this type of leadership program because of its diverse indigent patient population and unique location relative to countries outside the United States.

The MSB Leadership Program will complement the four-year medical curriculum and focus on experiential learning, including interactive discussions, presentations, fieldwork, and a service project. Progress will be evaluated by upperclassmen mentors with the oversight of faculty members.

  • Years one and two focus on the interactive seminars, which include the Foundations of Global Health Leadership I & II, a Global Health Seminar, and the Cultural Awareness and Global Health Disparities Case-Based Learning. Students will also participate in global health fieldwork to integrate leadership skills from the classroom and to lay the groundwork for a global health leadership service project.
  • Years three and four require students to assume an active leadership role by mentoring first and second year students, assisting faculty in leading seminars, and carrying out a service project. Projects will focus on global health leadership such as designing a public health program in a developing country or in an underserved population in the US.

By the end of the four years, students will be able to demonstrate the five proficiencies in global health leadership: (1) global health and social justice leadership; (2) professional responsibility; (3) socio-cultural awareness; (4) communication and teamwork management; and (5) knowledge of global health. Ultimately, the program will prepare future physicians to engage in collaborative capacity-building activities, understand the importance of evidence-based strategies to implement effective global health programs, work effectively within varied cultural settings, and apply leadership skills to advance health equity and social justice on a global scale.

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USF Health Morsani College of Medicine—USF Plexus/TBSM Leadership through Service Cooperative

Inducting its first class of 23 mentors and 30 mentees in October 2013 the University of South Florida (USF) Health Plexus mentoring initiative at the USF Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) connects health professional students (medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy) with pre-health undergraduate students to facilitate the development of professional behaviors and characteristics. A semi-formal program, Plexus includes eight monthly modules that span the academic year and cover a variety of topics ranging from professionalism to resource awareness. Mentors receive training for each module and then deliver this information to their mentees on an individualized basis. In conjunction with the USF Office for Student Diversity and Enrichment, Plexus also hosts mentee group sessions that aim to reinforce recent modules, provide an administrative perspective, and address questions or concerns from participants.

Wishing to expand its efforts, Plexus has partnered with USF faculty in the development of a leadership curriculum for mentors. Furthering these leadership development efforts, Plexus has also collaborated with Tampa Bay Street Medicine (TBSM) to provide a service learning opportunity for participants. TBSM is a new USF MCOM organization that will provide care to the homeless community in the Tampa Bay area. The overarching theme of the Plexus/TBSM coalition will be, “Learning leadership through teaching leadership and partnering in service.”

The current model, as described in the first paragraph, is set to become the new first year curriculum for incoming mentors and mentees, with the new leadership curriculum offered to continuing second year professional student mentors. The leadership curriculum will also be required for all student leaders of Plexus and TBSM, in an effort to maximize its utility and unity. The curriculum will consist of the following eight workshops:

  1. Myers-Briggs—Understanding your personality and the personalities of others
  2. Negotiation Skills—Learning to compromise
  3. Financing Your Initiatives—How to create an effective budget and manage funds
  4. Health Policy—Keeping pace with changes and how they affect your organization
  5. Politics—Understanding the motives of others
  6. Time Management—How to effectively manage your commitments
  7. Public Speaking—How to deliver an effective presentation
  8. Dean for a Day—Possibly becoming a one-month elective for fourth year students

In addition to gaining valuable skills at these sessions, mentors will have the opportunity to forge new relationships with faculty who may serve as role models in the art and practice of leadership.

After receiving the above leadership education Plexus mentors will relay these principles to their mentee(s). Then together, Plexus mentors and mentees will apply their new skills to serving the community through participation in TBSM. Also, it is a future goal of this coalition for senior graduate student mentors to eventually teach the leadership curriculum to second year mentors. This will then create a cycle of healthcare professionals working together to learn from and teach each other, reinforcing interdisciplinary teamwork, leadership, and service.

Students committed to the Plexus/TBSM combined program will be required to volunteer for “street runs” at least twice per semester. During these “street runs” teams comprised of upper and lower-level professional students, undergraduate students, and volunteer physicians will be equipped with clinical supplies, common over-the-counter medications, and wound care supplies to provide basic primary care. By providing direct care, medical education, and access to resources, students will gain valuable insight into the issues faced by this medically underserved population. Students will also gain a better appreciation for barriers to care in medicine whilst humanizing and breaking down common stereotypes associated with this vulnerable population. By working together to apply the newly acquired leadership skills and attributes, participants in the Plexus/TBSM Leadership through Service program will complete the cycle of, “Learning leadership through teaching leadership and partnering in service.”

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Weil Cornell Medical College—Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights (WCCHR) Leaders in Health and Human Rights Initiative

WCCHR is a medical student-run human rights clinic dedicated to providing forensic medical evaluations to survivors of persecution seeking asylum in the United States. Founded in 2010 through a partnership with Physicians for Human Rights, WCCHR is the first student-run asylum clinic at a U.S. medical school and has been heralded as a model for future asylum evaluation programs. The organization is comprised of a diverse and growing team of volunteer clinicians and medical students committed to serving asylum seekers and educating health professionals and the general public about the asylum process.

WCCHR was founded on the twin pillars of service and education. Service is provided to victims of torture from countries across the globe seeking asylum on multiple grounds, including persecution due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. Asylum seekers with medical affidavits that have been prepared by trained physicians are three times more likely to be granted asylum than those without medical documentation. It has been estimated that there are over 500,000 foreign-born torture survivors in the United States and approximately 20 percent of them reside in the New York metropolitan area. Thus, WCCHR is uniquely situated to assist this population in the daunting process of attaining asylum in the U.S.

WCCHR is also committed to educating medical students, residents and practicing physicians about human rights violations and ways in which they can utilize the unique skills of their profession to defend victims of torture. The Center provides training sessions and educational seminars to teach physicians and students how to evaluate torture survivors, identify the physical and psychological sequelae of torture and abuse, and write medical affidavits documenting their findings. Trained medical students observe every evaluation conducted by WCCHR’s physician volunteers and assist the overseeing physician or psychologist in writing the medical affidavit.

As of December 2013 WCCHR has conducted 130 forensic evaluations for 113 clients from 39 countries. To date, 100% of WCCHR’s clients who have been to court have been granted asylum or another form of legal protection in the United States. WCCHR has also trained a total of 262 medical students, 139 from WCMC and 123 from institutions across the country. In addition, to date WCCHR has trained a total of 43 health professionals to conduct forensic evaluations and currently has 16 active evaluators: 12 for psychiatric evaluations, 3 for medical evaluations and 1 for gynecological evaluations.

WCCHR is governed by a twenty-member Student Board composed of MD and MD/PhD students with oversight from three Medical Directors and a Faculty Advisory Board. As the first student-run asylum evaluation clinic in the country, WCCHR has served as a national role model. WCCHR is playing a lead role in training students and health professionals across the country as they develop human rights centers. WCCHR has trained students from UPenn, Columbia, NYU, Brown, UMichigan, UMDNJ, Yeshiva, and UC Davis and is currently advising teams of students from many of these institutions.

The goal of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights’ proposal to AΩA’s Medical Student Service Leadership Project entitled the “Leaders in Health and Human Rights Initiative” is to formally acknowledge and cultivate the leadership skills that medical students already develop as members of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights Student Board. This project will include the development of a number of new service, education, and research projects, each with structured mentorship and feedback components to promote the development of leadership skills and facilitate the creation of areas of expertise for medical students within the fields of human rights and asylum law. The new subcommittees that will supplement the current experience of WCCHR student leaders include Education, Self-Care, Advocacy, Continuing Care, and Research. These subcommittees each emphasize core skills with relevance that extends beyond the mission of WCCHR: students will develop expertise applicable to their future careers as physician leaders dedicated to service.

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Updated on March 20, 2014.


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