News » AΩA 61st Annual Banquet and Induction Ceremony

AΩA 61st Annual Banquet and Induction Ceremony

Clinical public health and a passion for service played central themes during the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) 61st Annual Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (AΩA) Awards and Induction Banquet, May 12. The annual event, organized by Angelike Liappis, M.D. ’96, FIDSA, associate professor of medicine at SMHS and secretary of the GW chapter of AΩA, brought Baltimore Commissioner of Health, Leana Wen, M.D., in addition to a former U.S. Surgeon General and a former director at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help celebrate the induction of this year’s newest AΩA members: two alumni inductees, two faculty members, three residents, a voluntary clinical faculty member, and 35 members of 2016 SMHS M.D. graduating class.

Induction into AΩA is based on a student’s academic standing, as well their leadership qualities, professionalism and firm sense of ethics, promise of future success in medicine, and commitment to service in the school and community. Only the top 25 percent of graduating medical students are eligible for nomination to the society. Inductees are selected by their peers and faculty members based on their demonstration of leadership, character, community service, and professionalism. This year’s student inductees will go on to represent GW and the Alpha Chapter of AΩA at residency programs from some of the leading medical institutions across the country including, UCLA Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Thomas Jefferson University, in addition to several who will complete their medical training at GW and clinical partner Children’s National Health System.

In welcoming the new student, resident, faculty, and alumni honorees, Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D. ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs at GW, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and Dean of SMHS, said “This is a distinct honor, and we are extremely proud of all you have accomplished; you are the best of who we have. Let me congratulate you and wish you all the best.”

“Election to Alpha Omega Alpha is a distinction that accompanies a physician throughout his or her career,” added Alan Wasserman, M.D., M.A.C.P., Eugene Meyer Professor of Medicine, chair of the Department of Medicine at SMHS, and councilor of the GW Alpha Chapter of AΩA, who formally conferred membership on this year’s class of physicians. “It is the highest honor the medical profession, and will always be recognized as a member of AΩA.”

Wen, who served as director of patient-centered care research and assistant professor of emergency medicine at SMHS before accepting an appointment from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to serve as health commissioner, is a noted physician, researcher, author, and patient advocate who has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization, the Brookings Institution, and China Medical Board. She thanked GW’s M.D. program students, who unanimously chose her as this year’s AΩA Visiting Professor, and confessed that were it not for them, she would not be where she is today.

“You know,” joked the former Rhodes Scholar, who also trained at the University of Oxford, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital, “I was not selected for AΩA as a medical student. I would never have attended an AΩA event were it not for you.”

Earlier in the day, Wen delivered the AΩA visiting professor lecture, focusing on her work in Baltimore. For the awards banquet, she turned her attention to more personal topics, focusing on the things that motivate her as a professional and guide her as a person.

“It’s much more difficult to talk about these personal stories,” Wen told this year’s class of AΩA inductees. “If there is one thing that I have learned through my work as a physician and as a public health leader, it’s that being open to that vulnerability, and being willing to share those raw moments, that’s how we can connect.”

“I learn a lot of lessons the hard way,” she added, recalling one of her most significant lessons from her medical training. A phone call from her mother during Wen’s second year of medical school would have a profound and lasting effect on both her personal and professional life. Something was wrong, Wen’s mother said; she wasn’t feeling well. “She had a cough that wouldn’t go away, she was tired all the time, she was short of breath, and she just felt out of sorts,” recalled Wen. “Her doctors told her not to worry, it was a virus. ‘You’re a teacher, you’re exposed to the flu and to colds all of the time.’” But the call, and the concern in her mother’s voice, left Wen certain it was more than just a simple cough.

Culturally, however, it was frowned upon to question a physician. “She pleaded with me in the waiting room of the doctor’s office,” recalled Wen, when she told her mother they ought to say something to her doctor. “‘Please do not speak up,’ she told me. ‘Do not make the doctor angry.’” Wen listened to her mother and said nothing.

A year later, her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which, by that time, had spread to her lungs and bones. “That was a lesson about speaking up that I learned the hard way. I learned a lot over the course of my mother’s illness.

“All of us are privileged to be here,” Wen told the group. “It’s a conspiracy of love that has gotten us to where we are now, and we are very privileged. But as a result of that, we also have a deep responsibility, which includes speaking up. I learned that responsibility the hard way with my mother.”

Following Wen’s remarks, Wasserman, now in his 15th year as councilor of the GW Alpha Chapter of AΩA, formally conferred membership on this year’s class, beginning with faculty inductees Jalil Ahari, M.D., program director for the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Disorders Medicine, associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program, and assistant professor of medicine; and Keith Melancon, M.D., chief of the Division of Transplantation, director of the GW Hospital Transplant Institute, and professor of surgery.

Ahari, who for seven consecutive years has received the GW Medical Faculty Associates’ Faculty Member of the Year Award as voted by the GW medical residents, kept his honor in perspective as he thanked the AΩA members and congratulated his fellow inductees. “It took me just seven or eight steps to come up here to accept this honor this evening,” Ahari said, “but these seven or eight step could not have happened without the help of hundreds of people throughout my career.”

On hand to celebrate his induction into AΩA were Melancon’s wife and their four boys, as well as his mother.

“When I trace back the beginnings of why I am a doctor today,” Melancon recalled, “I have to think back to when I was a little boy, maybe only 6 or 7 years old.” He explained how his mother, who was studying to become a nurse, would recite her coursework out loud to help her study. “As a little boy I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but I definitely think that launched me in this career.”

Offering advice to the young doctors, Melancon stressed the value of maintaining passion for one’s life and career. “I’m a Creole from south Louisiana. We gave the United States gumbo and jambalaya, zydeco and jazz. This weekend at the White House, President Obama said ‘Jazz stirs in the soul the desire to create beyond boundaries.’ I think for all of you who are graduating, that’s what you should hope to do. You need to have a passion to try to go beyond the boundaries.”

This year’s AΩA Alumni Awards went to a pair of alumni who, like visiting AΩA professor Wen, have made significant contributions in the world of clinical public health.

Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D. ’71, is a Former Surgeon General of the United States, in addition to serving as president and CEO, First Samurai Consulting, LLC; adjunct professor of global health at GW; and adjunct associate professor of preventive medicine at the Uniformed Services University.

 “Never forget that health literacy underpins everything that we do,” Moritsugu reminded the graduating students and residents in the audience. “Health literacy is the ability to communicate in such a way that the people whom we serve hear a message, understand a message, embrace a message, and, ultimately, put that message into action. Anything short of achieving that last step, and we have failed. As you begin and continue your careers in health and medicine, please remember to put the patient at the center of everything we do. Our goal is to dignify the lives of those we serve.”

In accepting his honor, Lawrence R. Deyton, M.D. ’85, senior associate dean for clinical public health, professor of medicine and of health policy, and former director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, recalled the moment that led him to return to GW; this time, however, he came as a faculty member to help guide students to connect clinical care and clinical public health to make a broader impact on the community well-being.

In 2012, he was invited to give the address to GW’s M.D. program Class of 2016 students at the white coat ceremony. Deyton recalled his words that day, telling the newly minted medical students, “You not only have a responsibility to be a great clinician, but also you have a responsibility to your community and to have a great impact in society.”

Following his address, Deyton joined Dean Akman in helping the new medical students put on their white coats. But as each student crossed the stage, many asked, “Dr. Deyton, how do I do that? How do I serve the public and make an impact on society?”

“That day was important for you and your career, but it also changed mine,” Deyton said. “You inspired me, and made me think optimistically about the future.” 

The 2016 AΩA Alpha Chapter Voluntary Clinical Faculty Award winner was David C. Wherry, M.D. ’52, B.A. ’48, clinical professor of surgery, who thanked Wasserman not only for the honor of being inducted into the Alpha Chapter of AΩA, but also for being his cardiologist and “keeping him alive.”


2016 AΩA Inductees and Awardees


Elizabeth O. Kidder, M.D., Ph.D.

Residency, Internal Medicine/Primary Care


Jose A. Lucar Lloveras, M.D.

Fellow, Infectious Diseases


Erin E. Vipler, M.D.

Chief Medical Resident, Internal Medicine



Jalil Ahari, M.D.

Program Director, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Medicine
Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program
Assistant Professor of Medicine, SMHS


J. Keith Melancon, M.D.

Chief, Division of Transplantation
Director of Transplant Institute, GW Hospital
Professor of Surgery, SMHS



Lawrence R. Deyton, M.D. ’85, M.P.H.

Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health
Professor of Medicine and of Health Policy, SMHS


Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D. ’71

Former Surgeon General of the United States
President and CEO, First Samurai Consulting, LLC
Adjunct Professor of Global Health, SMHS
Adjunct Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine, Uniformed Services University


2016 AΩA Alpha Chapter Voluntary Clinical Faculty Award

David C. Wherry, M.D.

Clinical Professor of Surgery


AΩA Student Class of 2016

Abigail A. Armstrong

UCLA Medical Center, CA



Alexandra B. Barsell

University of Louisville School of Medicine, KY



Tatiana D. Bekker

Thomas Jefferson University, PA

Internal Medicine


Geetha Bhagavatula

Children’s Hospital-Boston, MA



Alexandra J. D’Agostini

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, IL

Orthopaedic Surgery


Omar Dughly

Children’s National Health System, DC



Shane M. Durkin

University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, TX



Sanaz N. Ghafouri

UCLA Medical Center, CA

Internal Medicine


Mark Paul Ghassibi

Fellowship in Ophthalmic Pathology

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami, FL


Mae R. Gillespie

Stanford University, CA



Catherine Taylor Haring

University of Michigan Hospital at Ann Arbor, MI



Noah Q. Haroian

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, MA

Internal Medicine


Aria Jamshidi

Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery,

Children’s National Health System, DC


Rajdeep Kapoor

Massachusetts General Hospital, MA



Kelly J. King

The George Washington University, DC



Sarah E. Knapp

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, MA



Antony I. Koroulakis

University of Maryland, MD

Radiation Oncology


Taylor S. Mann

Johns Hopkins Hospital, MD



Samantha Lee Margulies

Yale-New Haven Hospital, CT



Lindsay N. Marszal

Northwestern University, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, IL



Meredith Jo McAdams

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, PA

Internal Medicine


Aaron M. Murphy-Crews

University of Cincinnati Medical Center, OH

Emergency Medicine


Neera Nathan

Massachusetts General Hospital, MA

Dermatology/Harvard Combined


Nathaniel Nguyen

The George Washington University, DC

Internal Medicine


Nicholas Oh

UCLA Medical Center, CA

General Surgery


Erica M. Orsini

Johns Hopkins Hospital, MD

Internal Medicine


Margarita W. Ramos

Children’s National Health System, DC



Janine M. Rotsides

NYU School Of Medicine, NY



Megan A. Rudolph

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, NC

Plastic Surgery


Lauren C. Schwartz

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY

Internal Medicine


Julie E. Stein

Johns Hopkins Hospital, MD



Matthew T. Stib

Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, RI



Jennifer Ann Tendler

Children’s National Health System, DC



Jenna A. Staerkel Wade

Emory University School of Medicine, GA



Najeff A. Waseem

Stanford University Programs, CA

Internal Medicine