Study Shows Racial Gap in Medical Honor Society Membership

A new study led by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine finds that Black medical school students are less likely than White students to be selected for membership in Alpha Omega Alpha, the prestigious medical honor society. The research found that White medical school students were nearly six times as likely as Black students to be chosen as members of Alpha Omega Alpha.

Students are eligible for membership in the society if they rank in the top quarter of their class. Society membership is important because members are more likely to get into the residency program of their choice, and more likely to attain the rank of full professor, dean, or department chair than nonmembers, the researchers said.

Dowin Boatright, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale and the lead author of the study, notes that “in our fully adjusted model — which takes into account measures of professionalism, leadership, research, and standardized test scores —  underrepresented minorities are still less likely to be AΩA members.”

Dr. Boatright added that when “we look at the pipeline of physicians entering into medicine, and there’s talk about how we need to increase the number of underrepresented minorities that are becoming physicians, this study shows there is some systematic bias at the level of medical schools that has not been addressed.”

Dr. Boatright is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta and the Baylor College of Medicine. He also earned an MBA from Rice University.

The full study, “Racial Disparities in Medical Student Membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society,” was published on the website of JAMA Internal Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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