Alpha Omega Alpha banquet features prominent national speaker
The 32 newest members of the Epsilon chapter of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society listened attentively as one of the most influential physicians in the world—Donald Melnick, MD, FACP, president of the National Board of Medical Examiners—delivered a provocative keynote address at the society’s annual banquet on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, in Wong Kerlee International Conference Center.
According to Sarah Roddy, MD, councilor of the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha, Dr. Melnick is an alumnus of Loma Linda University who received his MD degree here in 1974.
“We were honored to have Dr. Melnick return to Loma Linda,” Dr. Roddy notes, “and share his thoughts with faculty and students in a variety of forums.”
The Loma Linda, or Epsilon, chapter inducted 27 graduating seniors, one alumnus, two faculty members, and two house staff into AOA. The new members of the honor society are:Initiates from the class of 2008
Why are these people smiling? Because these members of the LLU School of Medicine class of 2008 have just been initiated into membership into Alpha Omega Alpha, the nation’s premier medical honor society.
br /> Kelly Kieper
Samuel H. Lee
Victoria Valinluck Lao
Astrid von Walter
Robert Smith, MD
Francis Chan, MD
Darla Shores, MD
John Gregorius, MD
Brinda Thimmappa, MD
In her welcome to the banquet, Kelsie Bickley, student president of the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha, reminded participants that they owe a great debt of gratitude to their mentors and teachers. Ms. Bickley was followed on the program by Sarah Roddy, MD, councilor for the Epsilon chapter, who offered the invocation.
Following one of the legendary dinners served up by the catering staff of Wong Kerlee—this one featured a mélange of international foods including entrees from India and Sweden—Leonard Werner, MD, secretary-treasurer for the Epsilon chapter, introduced all 32 new members of the honor society to the enthusiastic applause of the audience. He also acknowledged the four surviving members of the first Alpha Omega Alpha chapter at Loma Linda, the inductees from the class of 1951. The four—Harvey Elder, Glen Foster, Raymond Herber, and Milton Miller—were soundly applauded for pioneering the Epsilon chapter.
Next up was H. Roger Hadley, MD, dean of the LLU School of Medicine. Drawing from his personal recollections of meeting some of the inductees in their undergraduate days, Dr. Hadley welcomed the group into the rarefied fellowship of AOA. He went on to point out the medically significant contributions of a number of LLUSM alumni, many of who were in the audience. One just happened to be Dr. Melnick. With that observation, the dean segued into a humorous introduction of Dr. Melnick who, it turns out, had been his classmate at the School of Medicine in the 1970s. Dr. Hadley showed photos of the two of them in Vietnam where they assisted his grandfather, Roger Barnes, MD, in a brief surgical elective before entering their residency programs.
Dr. Melnick began his speech by returning the favor. His photos showed a youthful Dr. Hadley back in the age of flashy polyester shirts and funky trousers. His tone turned serious, however, when he addressed the challenges facing doctors in our age of corporate medicine. Dr. Melnick’s presentation, titled “Professionalism versus the medical-industrial complex,” was both compelling and frightening. Borrowing excerpts from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961, Dr. Melnick paraphrased President Eisenhower’s observations into reflections on the state of market-driven health care in America today. He pointed to several notable cultural examples, including Michael Moore’s controversial “Sicko,” and cited numerous public opinion polls showing that public perceptions of American health care are extremely negative.
Dr. Melnick posited that even though the problems with American health care are largely caused by the deadly alliance of health care corporations, drug companies, and insurance providers, there is grave danger that the public may begin to see doctors in the same light. One study he displayed on the screen showed that while public confidence in the honesty of doctors still remains high, HMOs ranked at the bottom along with advertising executives—a group long suspected of twisting the truth to enhance corporate profits.
Dr. Melnick spoke of the need for individual medical practitioners to remain committed to the traditional values of their profession in spite of pressure from multinational health care corporations to sell out for financial gain. He challenged doctors to remember that the most important value in medicine is to care for patients. He admonished doctors to base decisions on which specialty to select and where to establish their practices not on lifestyle or financial considerations, but on how many people they can heal.
Dr. Melnick asked the new members to decide whether they will align themselves with the needs of their patients, or the medical-industrial complex. He challenged them to choose the needs of patients and proposed a three-step program:
“The first step is to embrace your identity as part of the profession of medicine,” Dr. Melnick said. “The second is to embrace the values of Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Alpha Omega Alpha.” He listed the values of LLUSM as “compassion, commitment, and heeding the call to a life of service,” and those of AOA as “professionalism, scholarship, leadership, and service.” He told the audience that the third step is to “commit to retaining your idealism and empathy.”
By James Ponder